Kentucky senator Karen Berg announces tragic death of trans son Henry aged 24

Henry Berg-Brousseau, a trans rights advocate, smiles at the camera while posing in front of logos for the Human Rights Campaign

Kentucky senator Karen Berg asked for people to “practice tolerance and grace” following the death of her trans son.

The Louisville lawmaker said her son Henry Berg-Brousseau, who was a “beloved son, brother, nephew, dog parent and friend”, died by suicide on Friday (16 December). He was 24.

He was a trans rights advocate and recently received a “big promotion” from his employer, the LGBTQ+ advocacy group Human Rights Campaign (HRC), where his colleagues described him as an “absolute light”. 

“Henry spent his life working to extend grace, compassion and understanding to everyone, but especially to the vulnerable and marginalised,” Berg said in the statement. “This grace, compassion and understanding was not always returned to him.”

The Democrat said her son “long struggled with mental illness, not because he was trans but born from his difficulty finding acceptance”. 

“As the mother of a transgender son, I gave my whole heart trying to protect my child from a world where some people and especially some politicians intentionally continued to believe that marginalising my child was OK simply because of who he was,” Berg said.

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Henry Berg-Brousseau was a ‘light’ who was ‘deeply passionate’ about trans rights

Henry Berg-Brousseau was a life-long advocate for trans rights, according to his obituary. He organised a protest against conversion therapy while a student at Louisville Collegiate School and participated in other causes both locally and nationally. 

In 2014, Berg-Brousseau, while a high school junior, testified against an anti-trans bathroom bill being proposed in the Kentucky Senate, the Lexington Herald Leader reported.  

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“The message is clear with this bill: We don’t belong,” Henry told the Senate Education Committee. 

After graduating from George Washington University in 2021, Henry served as the deputy press secretary at the HRC.

HRC president Kelley Robinson described losing Berg-Brousseau as an “unfathomable loss” as he was a “light” in the organisation who was “deeply passionate, deeply engaged and deeply caring”. 

“His colleagues will always remember his hunger for justice, his eagerness to pitch in, his bright presence and his indelible sense of humour,” Robinson said.

“He could always be counted on to volunteer for a project, hit send on a press release from wherever in the world he was, or share a kind word in the elevator up to his office.”

Henry Berg-Brousseau smiles as he pets a small dog
Henry Berg-Brousseau was an “avid knitter”, loved The West Wing and was an “active member” of the Stonewall Kickball League of DC. (Facebook/Henry Berg-Brousseau)

Robinson said Berg-Brousseau “faced down anti-transgender vitriol every single day” and that “no one was more aware of the harm that anti-transgender rhetoric, messaging, and legislation could have on his community”.

Karen Berg warns ‘vitriol against trans people’ has ‘real-world implications’

On the Senate floor, Karen Berg has passionately talked about her son’s experience as a reason why she speaks out against legislation that would roll back trans rights. This includes a 2022 law preventing trans girls and women from participating in school sports matching their gender identity from sixth grade through college in Kentucky. 

After the bill passed the state senate in February, Berg described how opponents of the anti-trans measure were “begging of people” to practise “understanding and grace”. 

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In her statement announcing her son’s death, Karen Berg said Henry was “aware of the hateful and vile anti-trans messaging being circulated around this country and focused at his workplace”. 

She said this “hate building across the country weighed on him” and reflected on how he wondered if he was “safe walking down the street” in one of their last conversations.

“The vitriol against trans people is not happening in a vacuum,” Berg said.

She continued: “It is not just a way of scoring political points by exacerbating the culture wars. 

“It has real-world implications for how transgender people view their place in the world and how they are treated as they just try to live their lives.”

Berg called on others to “practice tolerance and grace” as well as to “work on loving your neighbour”.

Henry Berg-Brousseau was also remembered for being an “active member of the Stonewall Kickball League of DC, an avid knitter and a lover of The West Wing”. 

He is survived by his parents, sister, other members of his family and loved ones as well as his “beloved dog, Bibi”.

Suicide is preventable. Readers who are affected by the issues raised in this story are encouraged to contact Samaritans on 116 123 (www.samaritans.org), or Mind on 0300 123 3393 (www.mind.org.uk). ​Readers in the US are encouraged to contact theNational Suicide Prevention Line on 1-800-273-8255.

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