When not working for the Toronto People With AIDS Foundation, Gareth Henry, 40, devotes his spare time to Rainbow Railroad, a non-profit Canadian organization that helps to relocate persecuted LGBTQ people from countries around the world.
A native Jamaican, Henry knows full well about persecution. At 16 he came out as gay after leaving home. He joined the Jamaican gay movement JFLAG when it was established in 1998. He became an outspoken activist pushing to change the laws for same-sex couples. In 2004, Henry became the head of JFLAG after the murder of the organization’s prior leader. He suffered beatings at the hands of police and had friends killed by anti-gay mobs. Striving to change the laws in a country where same-sex relationships are illegal, led to death threats that ultimately forced him to leave his homeland.
When Gareth Henry landed in Canada in 2008 with refugee status, he knew there were numerous LGBTQ people left behind who needed help in escaping the hate-crimes and violence. With 76 countries still considering gay and lesbian consensual relationships criminal, Rainbow Railroad helps refugees from these countries establish new lives. By volunteering with Rainbow Railroad, Henry found he could make a difference.
Trying to change a culture of discrimination against LGBTQ people is what drives Gareth Henry to keep speaking out. He brings not only the spotlight to Rainbow Railroad, but also badly needed donations. Due to lack of funds, they are unable to help some in dire need of assistance, leading to heartbreaking results.
Gareth Henry, his husband Aron, along with other family members who have moved from Jamaica, has now made a life in Canada. Gay-rights privileges and freedoms in Canada allow the couple to live in peace. Jamaica has made some strides in the cause of gay rights recently, with Gay Pride Parades allowed to be held. But overall, homophobia is still a daily presence in Jamaica. Without a support system, many LGBTQ people suffer in silence. Gareth Henry will not be silent and continue to fight for the persecuted LGBTQ community in Jamaica and across the globe.