Concern has grown in the Chicago area after two Black transgender women were found dead in recent weeks.
The body of Elise Malary, a prominent 31-year-old activist in Evanston's LGBTQ+ community, was found in Lake Michigan March 17, six days after a family member reported her missing.
The Cook County Medical Examiner's Office is conducting an investigation to determine Malary's manner and cause of death.
In Chicago's East Chatham neighborhood, family members recently organized a vigil for Tatiana LaBelle, whose body was found March 18 inside a garbage can in an alley.
Jae Rice of Brave Space Alliance, the first Black-led, trans-led LGBTQ+ Center on Chicago's South Side, said the deaths bring to light issues faced by the community.
"Black trans folks deal with a lot of intra-community violence," Rice said. "We are faced with violence from folks who say that they love us, from folks who say that they care about us, and quite frankly, we're dealing with an epidemic as far as Black trans deaths."
Groups that support the transgender community say the deaths of LaBelle and Malary are among an uptick in deaths involving the Black trans community nationwide.
According to the National Black Justice Coalition, 2021 was the deadliest year on record for Black transgender women in the U.S.
Victoria Kirby with the coalition said the recent deaths are part of an epidemic that needs to be addressed by a state of emergency declaration in the Chicago area.
"There is something going on when, within just a few weeks of each other, you find one woman who has been murdered and left in a trash can, and another woman who is found in Lake Michigan," Kirby said.