Gareth Henry is both a Jamaican national and gay rights activist from the small Caribbean island nation that still outlaws consensual same-sex partnerships. Now living in Toronto, Canada, Henry fled Jamaica after he spoke out against homophobia in country and subsequently was targeted by the police.
In Jamaica it is not uncommon for anti-LGBTQ hate to lead to violence, something Gareth Henry has both experienced personally and through his connections in the community. He has seen 13 of his friends killed due to anti-gay hate in Jamaica. For Henry Canada was a chance to escape persecution, he arrived after applying for refugee status and now helps others do the same. He works for AIDS foundation and volunteers for the Rainbow Railroad which helps relocate LGBTQ members living in countries that persecute them for their sexual orientation.
In speaking of his work Gareth Henry says, “It’s not a solution, but it is what we do in the interim to save people from being murdered. It’s giving people a second chance at life.” Gareth Henry is hoping for a day when real equality exists in Jamaica but says politicians need to do more than just talk about it. “Don’t just go on a platform and say it because it is a politically right thing to say.” He says.
In order for the colonial legacy of homophobia and anti-LGBTQ legistlations to be abolished leaders need to stand up for the right thing and challenge the status quo in the hopes of changing society. While small steps have been made in recent years, such as Kingston having a semi-regular Pride Parade, more needs to be done to both guarantee the rights of and protect LGBTQ population in Jamaica. Gareth Henry knows nothing will change over night but the work he does in his community and for Jamaicans, even from afar, goes to show that he believes that change can happen.
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