Man escapes homophobia in Jamaica, finds safe refuge in Toronto

When Gregg Durrant left his home of Jamaica and came to Toronto as a refugee just over two years ago, he finally felt safe. “Living in Jamaica I got a sense of just existing and not living,” he said, adding, “Jamaica is pretty homophobic.” Durrant, 34, is one of many LGBTQ refugees the 519, a City of Toronto agency that offers support services for the LGBTQ community, has helped settle in Canada and escape persecution in their home countries. Between April of last year and March this year, the organization has helped about 1,238 refugees. And compared to the first quarter of 2016, the first quarter of this year has seen a 71 per cent increase in the number of newcomers it’s assisted. “I was never out in Jamaica, because I was aware of the consequences of being out,” said Durrant. “I often masked my fears with smiles and pretended to be interested in girls, but people somehow were able to tell I am gay.”Article Continued BelowHis decision to leave his home came after he was called homophobic slurs, robbed and held up at knifepoint in Jamaica, he said.“Coming here there’s a sense of community and never before in my life have I been in a setting with over a hundred LGBTQ in one space interacting,” said Durrant of the 519. He fled his life in Jamaica and a job he loved teaching high school students.