Transgender rights activist Henry Berg-Brousseau dies aged 24 – The Guardian US

His mother, Kentucky state senator Karen Berg, said he killed himself after ‘difficulty finding acceptance’
Henry Berg-Brousseau, a transgender rights advocate whose story helped inspire opposition to trans-restrictive legislation in Kentucky, has died. He was 24.
Berg-Brousseau, of Arlington, Virginia, was the deputy press secretary for politics for the Human Rights Campaign, one of the nation’s largest LGBTQ+ advocacy organizations.
Berg-Brousseau died on Friday, said his mother, the Kentucky state senator Karen Berg. He “long struggled with mental illness, not because he was trans but born from his difficulty finding acceptance”, she said in a news release. The cause was suicide, she said.
“The vitriol against trans people is not happening in a vacuum,” Berg said in a statement. “It is not just a way of scoring political points by exacerbating the culture wars. It has real world implications.”
At 16, Berg-Brousseau made news headlines for his testimony against an anti-trans bathroom bill in Kentucky. Republican state legislators praised his courage and eloquence, and then voted to advance the legislation anyway, John Oliver pointed out in a 2015 segment on trans rights that featured the young man’s testimony.
After college, Berg-Brousseau made advocacy his full-time career, finding a role at a leading LGBTQ+ rights organization at a time when anti-trans bills were proliferating across the country. In 2018, 19 anti-trans bills were introduced in statehouses across the country; by 2022 there were 155, more than at any other point in the nation’s history, according to a Washington Post analysis. Trans youth were the most frequent target of lawmakers’ restrictions.
“On a daily basis at his job, Henry would be aware of the hateful and vile anti-trans messaging being circulated around this country and focused at his workplace,” his mother said in a news release. “This hate building across the country weighed on him. In one of our last conversations he wondered if he was safe walking down the street.”
His mother, a Democrat from Louisville, said her son had finally found a community, “but that could not undo the brokenness that he already felt”.
“Henry was first and foremost a fighter and an advocate. He was fighting for transgender rights as a teenager in Kentucky, far earlier than he should have had to,” the HRC president, Kelley Robinson, said in a statement. “As part of his job at HRC, he faced down anti-transgender vitriol every single day, and no one was more aware of the harm that anti-transgender rhetoric, messaging, and legislation could have on his community.”
Berg, a physician and professor from Louisville who was first elected to the state Senate in 2020, said her son spent his life “working to extend grace, compassion and understanding to everyone”.
She had talked about her son during legislative proceedings as she opposed Kentucky bills aimed at restricting transgender rights – similar to those that have passed Republican statehouses across the country. They include a 2022 Kentucky law that restricts the ability of transgender girls and women to participate in school sports.
“If I have one ask, it would be this: practice tolerance and grace,” Berg said. “Work on loving your neighbor.”
This article was amended on 22 December 2022. In an earlier version a subheading mistakenly described Karen Berg as a Virginia state senator.
In the US, the Trevor Project’s trained crisis counselors are available 24/7 at 1-866-488-7386, via chat at, or by texting START to 678678. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is at 800-273-8255 and online chat is also available. You can also text HOME to 741741 to connect with a crisis text line counselor. In the UK and Ireland, Samaritans can be contacted on freephone 116 123, or email or In Australia, the crisis support service Lifeline is 13 11 14. Other international helplines can be found at


Leave a Comment