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A Black transgender activist from Chicago was found dead a week after her family reported her missing. Elise Malary advocated for transgender rights and counseling services for LGBTQIA+ people.

Malary stopped responding to texts and calls from her family on March 9. Her body was found on the lakefront in Evanston, IL, on March 19.

Malary was a founding board member of the Andersonville-based Chicago Therapy Collective. The organization rallied for educational and support services for members of the LGBTQIA+ community.

She had previously worked as a communications associate for Equality Illinois and interned for the AIDS Foundation of Chicago. Ms. Malary fought tirelessly on behalf of rights for transgender people. 

Black transgender women face the brunt of hate

Her work was essential, as Black transwomen and men face the highest rates of murders of any members of the LGBTQIA+ community. In fact, 2021 was the deadliest year on record for transgender men and women. 

At least 45 transgender men and women were killed during 2021, and most of those killed were Black. One of those, Marquiisha Lawrence, was a 28-year-old Black transgender woman from South Carolina.

In a statement, Tori Cooper of the Human Rights Campaign noted, “We must commit to honoring trans lives and ending the horrific epidemic of violence that plagues our community.” Malary, through her work, advocated to help Black transmen and women face such violence in their daily lives.

Chicago Therapy Collective made a statement following Malary’s death. “The outpouring of love, care and community response reflects the deep impact of Elise’s love and advocacy on so many of us. We hope that you are taking tender care of one another. If you need support, please reach out to us.”

Following her death, Malary’s advocacy was even mentioned by members of the Illinois House of Representatives. While debating an anti-trans bill, Representative Kelly Cassidy stated, “I don’t want to hear any more hate speech on this floor, not from anyone. And if we can only do one thing to honor Elise Mallory’s memory, it’s to do that.”

While police do not suspect foul play, they are still investigating the circumstances surrounding her death. If you have any information about Elise Malary’s death, contact the Evanston Police Detective Bureau at 847-866-5040. Tips can also be texted to 274637 if the message starts with “EPDTIP.”  

Erika Stone is a graduate student in the Master of Social Work program at the University of Oklahoma, and a graduate assistant at Schusterman Library. A Chess Memorial Scholar, she has a B.A. in Psychology...