Transgender rights advocate Henry Berg-Brousseau dies at 24

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — 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 died Friday, said his mother, state Sen. 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.

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.

“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,” 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.”

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.”

Berg 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.

“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,” Berg 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.”

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 said the “vitriol against trans people” 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.”

“If I have one ask, it would be this: practice tolerance and grace,” Berg said. “Work on loving your neighbor.”

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