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Late transgender activist Elise Malary receives street dedication in Andersonville
by Jake Wittich
2024-03-30

This article shared 12306 times since Sat Mar 30, 2024
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Elise Malary, the late transgender activist who died in March 2022, was a born-and-raised Andersonville local who co-founded the neighborhood-based Chicago Therapy Collective (CTC).

Now her memory is a permanent fixture in Andersonville after dozens of her friends, family and supporters gathered on what would have been Malary's 34th birthday to name a street after her.

The renamed "Elise Malary Way" stretches Catalpa Avenue from Clark Street to Ashland Avenue, also known as the planned Catalpa Plaza.

Malary's loved ones cheered, holding up photos of Malary framed in red hearts as her sister, Fabiana Malary, climbed a ladder and pulled the sign's cover off, unveiling the new street sign.

The ladder was borrowed from a neighboring grocery store after the string intended to pull the sign's cover off broke during Fabiana Malary's first attempt — something loved ones said Elise Malary would have laughed at.

"I am filled with profound gratitude today," Fabiana Malary said. "For each and every one of you who are here today, your presence here is a testament to the love and respect Elise brought out of everyone who knew her."

Malary worked throughout her career to alleviate LGBTQ+ health disparities at organizations like Equality Illinois and the AIDS Foundation of Chicago. She also worked at the Chicago Reader and the Civil Rights Bureau of the Illinois Attorney General's Office.

She spearheaded CTC's Hire Trans Now initiative, which fights employment discrimination against the transgender community by offering free trainings to Chicago businesses and a jobs board for the community.

Elise Malary also played a role in rallying people around Women & Children First Bookstore, CTC's downstairs neighbor, after it was targeted by anti-trans stickers.

Malary was posthumously awarded with the Transgender Visibility Award at Life is Work's inaugural Windy City Trans Visibility Pageant in 2022.

"Elise fearlessly navigated a world that often sought to diminish her light," Fabiana Malary said. "However, Elise continued to stand tall, unapologetically embracing her true self and advocating for the rights and dignity of the LGBTQ community."

Alds. Andre Vasquez (40th Ward) and Leni Manaa-Hoppenworth (48th), who sponsored the street dedication in City Council, both attended the ceremony to speak on its significance. Malary is the first Black transgender woman to receive such a dedication.

Vasquez met Malary in 2019 while running for office, while Manaa-Hoppenworth was friends with Malary and worked with her throughout the years.

"[Elise] was a professional, detail-oriented person and she always looked fabulous," Manaa-Hoppenworth said. "But Elise was also fierce. She organized and wanted us to keep showing up."

Other politicians who came to the celebration included Precious Brady-Davis, commissioner for the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District; Ald. Maria Hadden (49th); state Rep. Kelly Cassidy; and state Sen. Mike Simmons.

"We speak her name, Elise Malary, as she now lives in the great pantheon of trans Chicago ancestors who have gone before us," Brady-Davis said.

Malary's legacy became apparent after a vigil held in the aftermath of her death drew hundreds of people to pay their respects.

Iggy Ladden, executive director of CTC, thanked people for supporting Elise Malary by both showing up for her vigils and helping search for Elise Malary when she was reported missing.

"When we name this street Elise Malary Way, we invite her presence to stay and also to grow," Ladden said. "Additionally, we must commit ourselves to doing our best to ensure that Black trans women and Black and Brown trans people thrive in this neighborhood and city."


This article shared 12306 times since Sat Mar 30, 2024
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