Remembering Jean Butchart, Trans Man Killed During Series of Violent Incidents In Michigan

by Jose Soto

Jean Butchart, a 26-year-old white transgender man, loved “camping, foraging, gardening, and mushroom-hunting,” according to his obituary, which earned him the nickname "Nature Boy.” He was the youngest of three siblings. Jean had received a Bachelor of Science degree in Environmental Studies and was training to become a teacher, hoping to teach middle and high schoolers about the environment. On August 4, 2023, Jean was fatally shot in Belleville, Michigan inside a mobile home park community during a a series of violent incidents.

Jean’s death is the at least 29th violent killing of a transgender or gender non-conforming person in 2023. We say “at least” because too often these deaths go unreported — or misreported – as is the case with Jean Butchart. The Human Rights Campaign is deeply saddened to report on Jean’s passing.

According to the Macomb Daily, 22-year-old Matthew Torry Tiggs Jr. was involved in a verbal altercation with a 45-year-old resident from the mobile park community which then escalated to Tiggs pulling out a firearm on the individual but did not use the firearm. Tiggs ran from the scene. Days later, on August 4th, Tiggs returned to the mobile park community where he then shot Jean multiple times. Residents of the mobile park community called the Van Buren Township Fire Department, which found Jean on the ground and unresponsive. Jean had a gunshot wound to his head and was pronounced dead at the scene. While police were investigating Jean’s homicide, they received reports of shots fired in the same mobile park community. When they arrived at the scene, they found a 47-year-old resident suffering from gunshots who was taken to a local hospital for treatment. According to police, Tiggs had approached the resident in a vehicle, firing at the individual several times. Tiggs ran into a residence from within the mobile park community and barricaded himself. After a two-hour standoff with The Western Wayne Special Operations Team, Tigs surrendered himself.

In a press release, Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy said that “it is an understatement to say that these cases are extremely unsettling.”

“The defendant allegedly terrorized members of this community in a series of very violent events. We will continue to work hard to bring the victims and their families justice,” said Worthy in the press release.

Jean was striving toward a brighter future for himself where he could educate others about environmental issues and matters, something that was apparently very close to his heart. And yet again, very infuriatingly, we are recognizing another trans individual for being fatally shot instead of celebrating their accolades. Too often, our community’s dreams and aspirations are cut short because of the epidemic of gun violence in this country. As we honor Jean and the countless other trans people killed by gun violence, we have to push our entrusted politicians and lawmakers to prioritize the safety of not only the trans community, but every community in this country.”

Tori Cooper, Human Rights Campaign Director of Community Engagement for the Transgender Justice Initiative

In Jean’s case, Tiggs is charged with second-degree murder, felon in possession of a firearm, and felony firearm.

Jean is at least the 5th transgender man killed this year, and the 22nd trans or gender non-conforming person HRC has learned of who was killed with a gun. More than 25,000 hate crimes in the U.S. involve a firearm each year, which equates to almost 70 cases, according to a 2022 report from Everytown for Gun Safety in partnership with HRC and The Equality Federation Support Fund, “Remembering and Honoring Pulse: Anti-LGBTQ Bias and Guns Are Taking Lives of Countless LGBTQ People.” The report also notes a marked increase in anti-LGBTQ+ hate crimes, especially against transgender people. In 2022, the most recent year for which data is available, the FBI recorded a record-high number of hate crimes related to gender identity, including a 33% jump in hate crimes on the basis of gender identity from the year before.

In an injustice compounding this tragedy, Jean was misgendered in some media and police reports. Anti-transgender stigma is exacerbated by callous or disrespectful treatment by some in the media, law enforcement and elected offices. According to HRC research, it is estimated that approximately half of all known victims in 2023 were misgendered by the media and/or by law enforcement, leading to delays in identifying and reporting on cases–as, unfortunately, was the case with Jean. In the pursuit of greater accuracy and respect, HRC offers guidelines for journalists and others who report on transgender people. HRC, Media Matters and the Trans Journalists Association have also partnered on an FAQ for reporters writing about anti-trans violence.

We must demand better from our elected officials and reject harmful anti-transgender legislation at the local, state and federal levels, while also considering every possible way to make ending this violence a reality. It is clear that fatal violence disproportionately affects transgender women of color, especially Black transgender women. The intersections of racism, transphobia, sexism, biphobia and homophobia conspire to deprive them of the necessities to live and thrive, so we must all work together to cultivate acceptance, reject hate and end stigma for everyone in the trans and gender non-conforming community.

More resources:

  • Learn more about the fatal violence cases that HRC is tracking where details are unclear. You may find a list of these cases here.

  • Watch this PSA campaign elevating stories of trans joy and love.

  • Join HRC's Count Me In campaign to take action for transgender and non-binary people.

  • Read these guidelines and this FAQ for journalists to ensure greater accuracy and respect in reporting.

Learn about how transgender and non-binary people are combating transphobia, stigma and anti-trans violence through our Celebrating Changemakers series.