A working group convened by Manhattan District Attorney (DA) Alvin Bragg published a series of recommendations intended to improve how the DA’s office engages with transgender, gender non-conforming, and non-binary (TGNCNB) community-based advocates, employees, survivors, and witnesses.
Cecilia Gentili, a prominent LGBTQ activist who founded Trans Equity Consulting, was hired to take a leading role in the working group, which also included the New York City Anti-Violence Project, the Hetrick Martin Institute, the New York City Commission on Human Rights, and New York Lawyers for Public Interest, according to Bragg’s office. Gentili was hired in December 2021 and the findings of the report were unveiled on October 28.
In an interview with Gay City News, Gentili explained that the conversation to create a working group first started under the previous Manhattan district attorney, Cy Vance, and continued under Braggs’ leadership. The working group, Gentili said, evaluated the different kinds of interactions individuals typically have with the district attorney’s office — including how people first come across the system, whether as survivors or as witnesses or in other capacities.
“We looked at ways to improve their engagement with the criminal justice system,” Cecili said.
Among the findings, the report called for the DA to establish an intake form that would clarify the name and gender of individuals seeking assistance. That would address a key issue across law enforcement given the prevalence of misgendering and deadnaming by authorities — not just in New York City but across the country.
The report also encouraged the office to consolidate its hotlines and more publicly advertise support options available to individuals. An additional point by the working group recommended the hiring of a greeter or navigator who would assist visitors as they pass through security checkpoints and establish a private area for any extra screening necessary.
Among other changes, the group also recommended that the office move towards creating gender-neutral bathrooms, improve signage and accessibility, and create an improved system to refer victims to relevant services. Furthermore, the group recommended enhancements to training for assistant DAs and urged the establishment of a “living library” of resources on trans issues to educate officials responsible for working with the community.
The report also suggested updates to the Manhattan DA’s website to make sure resources, language, and accessibility details are consistent.
In response to the report, Bragg vowed to take action, though it is not clear exactly which areas he would prioritize first.
“I would like to thank the members of the TGNCNB Working Group who collaborated for months to analyze our office’s practices and suggest strategies to improve how we serve trans and gender- diverse survivors, witnesses, and community members,” Bragg said in a written statement. “Commissioning this report helped to highlight where we can take stronger action, and now we will immediately begin to implement as many of these recommendations as possible and remain committed to transparency throughout this ongoing process.”
Gentili pointed to her own experience as she underscored the importance of implementing the findings of the report.
“As someone who went through the criminal justice system as a trans person, I have first had knowledge of the shortcomings of this process and the difficulties that trans people encounter going through the system,” Gentili told Gay City News. “I am really hopeful; in my conversations with the DA, he is committed to start working.”
Gentili added: “These recommendations are a great starting point to create healing and find inclusive and caring ways to shift their experience to better outcomes. Thank you DA Bragg for this initiative!”
Soraya Elcock, who serves as the chief strategy officer at the Hetrick Martin Institute, also struck an optimistic tone as she vowed to work with the DA’s office to make sure the recommendations are implemented.
“Lending our experience in working with transgender, gender non-conforming, and non-binary youth at HMI is vital in developing stragegies to help lessen and eliminate the trauma nad violence TGNCNB individuals experience at the hands of our legal and correction system.”
Gentili said advocates are hoping the recommendations can be replicated across different DA offices near and far — not just in Manhattan.
Read the full report at ManhattanDA.org.