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Family Of Missing Transgender Activist Elise Malary Asks Public For Help In Search

Malary, 31, stopped answering texts and calls Wednesday, relatives said. An Evanston resident, she has worked at Chicago Therapy Collective in Andersonville, Equality Illinois and AIDS Foundation of Chicago.

Elise Malary has been missing since Wednesday, her sister said.
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Editor’s note: Evanston police announced March 19 that Elise Malary was found dead. You can read more here.

EVANSTON — Family and friends are appealing to the public for help after a prominent trans activist went missing last week.

Elise Malary, 31, was last heard from about 9 a.m. Wednesday, said her sister, Fabiana Malary. Elise Malary lives in Evanston and has been an active LGBTQ advocate on the Far North Side and throughout the city.

The two sisters were texting about Fabiana Malary’s mortgage payment because Elise Malary offered to help pay it this month, Fabiana Malary said. But by 9 p.m., Elise Malary stopped replying to her texts and calls to her phone started going straight to voicemail, Fabiana Malary said.

“Usually Elise is very organized and sends me receipts when she pays everything,” Fabiana Malary said. “I started to get worried because she didn’t do that, and when her phone started going straight to voicemail, I got really worried.”

Fabiana Malary waited two days to see if her sister would get back to her and filed missing person’s report with Evanston police on Friday, Fabiana Malary said.

Evanston police officials said the investigation is ongoing, but there are no signs of foul play. Her family and friends said they wanted to spread the word broadly to help find Elise Malary.

“I still hadn’t heard anything from her and I was freaking out,” Fabiana Malary said. “I’m worried and started to feel like something is wrong because this is not like Elise. This is not her normal behavior.”

Elise Malary is about 6 feet tall and weighs about 145 pounds, her sister said.

Detectives told Fabiana Malary they visited Elise Malary’s apartment in Evanston and found both front and back doors were unlocked, Fabiana Malary said. Police told Fabiana Malary her sister had sent an email to her boss the day she went missing to quit her job in the Civil Rights Bureau of the Illinois Attorney General’s office, she said.

“That was a rather shocking thing for me, because she loves her job so much,” Fabiana Malary said. “I’m very confused with what’s been going on and I’m still trying to put the pieces together to figure out where my sister is.”

Credit: Provided/Angelina Nordstrom
Elise Malary (left) photographed with her close friend Angelina Nordstrom.

Angelina Nordstrom, one of Elise Malary’s close friends, said Malary is a “fierce advocate” for the transgender community and has worked for years to serve its needs.

Elise Malary is a board member of the Andersonville-based Chicago Therapy Collective, which aims to alleviate LGBTQ health disparities through education, therapy, advocacy and the arts. She’s also worked as a communications associate for Equality Illinois and interned for the AIDS Foundation of Chicago, according to her LinkedIn.

Malary was among several organizers who rallied around Andersonville bookstore Women and Children First in 2019 when anti-trans stickers were put on the store’s front windows for weeks. The Chicago Therapy Collective was the bookstore’s upstairs neighbor.

“We’re drawing trans-affirmative art all over the sidewalk just to show everyone that Andersonville is trans-welcoming, trans-inclusive and trans-safe,” Elise Malary told ABC7.

Elise Malary is also one of several people who will receive a Transgender Visibility Award at the upcoming Chicago Trans Visibility Pageant organized by Life is Work, a Black- and Brown-, trans-led social services agency on the West Side.

Nordstrom said they last saw Malary Feb. 5 at the annual Equality Illinois Gala.

Fabiana Malary asked for anyone with information on Elise Malary’s whereabouts to contact Evanston Police Detective Bureau at 847-866-5040. She also asked for people to respect her family’s privacy during this time.

Jake Wittich is a Report for America corps member covering Lakeview, Lincoln Park and LGBTQ communities across the city for Block Club Chicago.