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Her trans son died by suicide. Now, this Kentucky senator is begging others to listen

"Right now, I’m stepping up and taking that lead for my child."

This story discusses suicide. If you or someone you know is in crisis, call 988 to reach the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline. You can also call the network, previously known as the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, at 800-273-8255, text HOME to 741741 or visit for additional resources.

A Kentucky state senator who lost her trans son to suicide gave an impassioned speech in opposition of an anti-trans bill that will allow teachers and school administrators to misgender trans students.

Her remarks have since gone viral. Now, she's opening up about what got her through that emotional moment.

The bill, SB 150, was introduced by Republican Sen. Max Wise as a “parents' rights in public schools" bill that, Wise says, allows for "free speech" in classrooms and increased communication between schools and parents.

In addition to requiring school districts to “adopt specific procedures related to parental rights,” the bill prohibits “a school district from requiring school personnel or pupils to use pronouns for students that do not conform to that student’s biological sex,” according to the legislation’s language.

Sen. Karen Berg, Ky.-D, tells she knew "unequivocally" that SB 150 was going to pass long before she took the floor on Thursday, Feb. 16, to voice her opposition.

Her son, Henry Berg-Brousseau, died of suicide just two months ago, on Dec. 16, 2022. He was 24.

"These are children with self-feelings that require ongoing protection and promotion," Berg said on the Kentucky state Senate floor. "If you don’t recognize them, these are the children that have trouble fitting in — the ones who are just a little different than their peers; the ones who historically we have allowed to be bullied."

In an interview with, Berg shared why she decided to speak out despite knowing the bill was going to pass.

"My child is dead, but I have parents from all over the Commonwealth and literally all over the country coming up to me, writing to me, calling me — look, these children exist," Berg tells "These children have all always existed. They're just asking for a space to be. If I can't use my own life learnings to protect other people, and what am I doing here? What's my purpose?

"I cannot bring my child back," she adds. "But I can help other families. I can."

The bill passed the state Senate with a 29-6 vote — two months to the day since Berg's son passed away.

Berg says the bill will now allow a "teacher to misgender a student" or refuse to "call a child by their preferred name or pronoun" — something she says she had to fight for when her son attended public school.

"It goes after the single most important thing that can be done to improve a trans child's health and wellbeing, and basically allows willful ignorance to flourish in our schools," the mother of two says. "And it's willful ignorance, because it's not that the data is not there — they choose to not believe it."

Sen. Karen Berg, pictured with her family.
Sen. Karen Berg, pictured with her family.Courtesy Sen. Karen Berg

Multiple studies and surveys have shown that trans youth are at an increased risk of depression, anxiety, suicidal thoughts and attempts and self-harm.

One 2018 study published in the Journal of Adolescent Health found that when a trans child’s chosen name is affirmed at home, in school or at work, their chances of experiencing suicidal ideation decreases by 29%, and their chances of engaging in suicidal behavior decreases by 56%.

"Basically, it's a vicious, mean attack on trans children," Berg says of the bill. "It means either you do not believe they exist, or you do not believe they deserve to exist. There's really no other way to interpret this legislation." reached out to Sen. Wise, who introduced the bill, for comment, but did not hear back at the time of publication.

Berg says she doesn't know how she made it through her speech — only that "when you're talking about children and the health and welfare of children, you can do a lot."

"Women have super strengths," she adds.

Sen. Karen Berg, being sworn into the Kentucky state Senate.
Sen. Karen Berg, being sworn into the Kentucky state Senate.Courtesy Sen. Karen Berg

Some of the same colleagues who offered Berg condolences after her son's death voted in favor of the bill, she says. After those colleagues voted, she tells that she "felt sad for them."

"I was in the room when that vote was taken," she explains. "My colleagues whispered their 'yes' votes ... and they should be embarrassed."

By mid-January in 2023, over 100 anti-LGBTQ+ bills had been introduced before state legislators across the country, many of them targeting trans youth and gender-affirming health care, as reported by NBC News.

In support of anti-trans bills introduced in 2023 and years past, some conservative legislators, such as Arkansas Republican state Sen. Matt McKee, have relied on transphobic language, according to NBC News. Recently, McKee asked a transgender health care professional if she “had a penis” during a public hearing on a state bill that would prohibit gender-affirming care for minors. and NBC News reached out to McKee for comment, but did not immediately hear back.

In 2021, one Arizona Republican Rep. John Fillmore compared trans people to farm animals. In an email to NBC News sent after his remarks, Fillmore said the "conversation is just childish silly," adding that "when a person wants to change the meanings of words because of their ‘feelings’ how can a society have a reasonable discussion about anything."

Despite the increase in anti-LGBTQ+ legislation and SB 150 passing the Kentucky State Senate, Berg says she "won't give up" in her attempts to curtail the efforts of many conservative legislators to target "our most vulnerable children."

Sen. Karen Berg, giving a speech in favor of LGBTQ+ rights in the state of Kentucky.
Sen. Karen Berg, giving a speech in favor of LGBTQ+ rights in the state of Kentucky.Courtesy Sen. Karen Berg

"If you give up, you've lost," she says. "There is no saying: 'I'm not going to keep going."

She shares that in the weeks before her son died by suicide, he told Berg and her husband that he "didn't know if he had the effort to face" the upcoming legislative session because "the vitriol and the intensity and the language was getting worse."

"His father and I both told him: 'If you need to step back, step back. If it's too much, somebody else will step up and take the lead,'" she adds. "Right now, I'm stepping up and taking that lead for my child. And somebody will step up and take it from me in the future."

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