The body of beloved trans rights activist Elise Malary was found off the shore of Lake Michigan in Chicago.
On 11 March, Malary’s family reported her missing after not hearing from the LGBTQ+ advocate for two days.
Soon after filing the report, loved ones and Chicago’s local LGBTQ+ community started an extensive search within the Andersonville neighbourhood.
On 17 March, Malary’s car was found in a parking lot a few blocks away from her apartment – which authorities reported as unlocked per ABC7 news.
Later that day, a 19-year old named Tristan Lambach found a woman’s body along the lakefront near Evanston.
On 19 March, local authorities confirmed that the unidentified woman was in fact Malary.
Before the tragic discovery, police said there were no signs of foul play regarding the activist’s disappearance.
Over the years, Malary was celebrated for her dedicated advocacy for Chicago’s LGBTQ+ and POC communities.
As part of her tireless activism, she was a board member of the Chicago Therapy Collective – a nonprofit organisation that “promotes city-wide accountability and action to alleviate LGBTQIA health disparities.”
Malary also worked for Equality Illinois and the Civil Rights Bureau for the Illinois Attorney General.
Since her passing, community members and political figures have issued heartfelt tributes for the adored leader.
Taking to Twitter, Lt. Governor Juliana Stratton said her brief encounter with Malary made her “a better leader.”
“I met Elise Malary at a meeting doing what she did well: advocating for equitable access to healthcare and safe workspaces for LGBTQ+ Illinoisans,” she wrote. “Her life mattered. Peace and love to all who are mourning.”
Alderwoman Maria Hadden of the 49th Ward also used social media to express her grief over Malary’s passing.
“There’s no easy way to say this – I’m heartbroken to share that Elise is no longer alive and with us,” she tweeted.
“She has been identified and now her family, friends and our community begin to process her loss and our grief. Elise Malary will be missed terribly.”
Alongside her post, Hadden partnered with Brave Space Alliance, which is the South Side’s first Black and transgender-led LGBTQ+ centre, to raise funds for funeral costs.
“Elise was a pillar of our community, a friend and accomplice to many, and a shining example of Black Trans Excellence,” the organisation said in a statement.
“Chicago has now lost two Black trans women in the span of 24 hours, the other being a woman named Tatiana. Black trans women deserve better, and our systems, our governments, and our communities fail them over and over.
“Our work will now shift to ensure that both of these women, and their families, get the justice and closure they deserve.”
Malary’s cause of death is still unknown and currently being investigated by the Cook County medical examiner.
There’s no easy way to say this – I’m heartbroken to share that Elise is no longer alive and with us. She has been identified and now her family, friends and our community begin to process her loss and our grief. Elise Malary will be missed terribly. @ChiTherapyColl pic.twitter.com/nUJg66pYyC
— Alderwoman Hadden (@ChiAlderwoman) March 19, 2022
I met Elise Malary at a meeting doing what she did so well: advocating for equitable access to healthcare and safe work spaces for LGBTQ+ Illinoisans.
Her life mattered. And our brief encounter made me a better leader. Peace and love to all who are mourning. Rest well, Elise. pic.twitter.com/tiz4IYrQJV
— Lt. Governor Juliana Stratton (@LtGovStratton) March 20, 2022