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BORN TO BE // $12 for 5-day viewing pass

STREAMS 11/27 – 12/17

Click BUY TICKET for information on how to stream the movie.

BORN TO BE follows the work of Dr. Jess Ting, a plastic surgeon at the groundbreaking Mount Sinai Center for Transgender Medicine and Surgery in New York City-where, for the first time ever, all transgender and non-binary people have access to quality gender affirming health and surgical care. With extraordinary access, this feature-length documentary takes an intimate look at how one doctor’s work impacts the lives of his patients as well as how his journey from renowned plastic surgeon to pioneering gender-affirming surgeon has led to his own transformation.

BORN TO BE gives voice to those who refuse to conform to gender norms and stereotypes. The film addresses the nuances and complexities of gender, exploring key issues around the breadth of gender identity and expression among human beings.

Through the gender affirming surgeries of Dr. Ting’s patients, we witness the joys and torments that come with this brand-new territory—even as we see the limitations of Dr. Ting’s renowned surgical skills, and his commitment to his new field being tested. 92 minutes.


You are invited to view the talkback with the film’s director Tania Cypriano, Dr. Jess Ting, as well as Mahogany and Jordan, two of the patients featured in “Born to Be.” The discussion will be moderated by IndieWire’s Jude Dry. WATCH PANEL DISCUSSION


I’ve always been interested in stories related to health and the body in the context of individuals and communities. My first film, Viva Eu!, celebrates the life of artist Wilton Braga, one of the first people in Brazil to be diagnosed with AIDS. I then worked on a video about tattoo artists and aficionados in a tattoo convention in Philadelphia, and a documentary about a pioneering HlV/AIDS campaign in houses of worship of Candomble – a Brazilian religion based on African beliefs and culture. I also have taken my own body to the screen. In ex-voto, I explore video as an offering object to Our Lady Aparecida – the national Patron Saint of Brazil – in gratitude for saving my life from an accident with fire.

In March 2016, producer Michelle Hayashi told me about the new and pioneering Center for Transgender Medicine and Surgery at Mount Sinai – and how she felt it could be developed into a film. Michelle thought that Dr. Jess Ting, the Center’s surgical director, could affect this by giving us access to those in transition and to stories that could encourage the trans community to understand how change was on the way.

After a year of getting the hospital’s permission to film and finding funding, we started production on BORN TO BE with no sound recordist – just using mics on the cameras – and no for that matter no crew; it was just our cinematographer Jeffrey Johnson, Michelle, and myself.

Being inside the clinics, we were allowed to experience people’s first consultations so we could follow their journey from the beginning. lt was essential to me that everyone be comfortable sharing their names, their faces, and their bodies.

Dr. Ting’s passion for learning everything that was new to him was contagious, and shaped Born to Be. The respect, empathy, and compassion he brings to his practice is incredibly moving to see. Dr. Ting was raised by a single mother and his older siblings. As a teenager he excelled as a musician and got into the Juilliard School. Urged by his family to change his profession, he went to med school despite his passion for music – and became a top student and later a professional in the field of plastic surgery. What he’s doing now is helping people to be who they really are – and he understands what’s at stake because who we fundamentally are is a big part of what we look for when we search for the meaning in our lives. With BORN TO BE, someone who is not trans communicates to a larger, and predominantly cisgender, audience about the trans experience-and the importance of being our true selves.

lt’s important to note that while the stories we tell in this film are about people in the transgender community who choose to surgically transition, there are many trans people who do not seek surgery. Also, it is vital to remember that the transgender community is a diverse community and l tried to show this by following people of different ages, ethnicities, gender, and financial backgrounds. There are those who have familial support and those who don’t; there are those who have partners and those who hope their transition will bring them to one. l hope viewers will learn from the film that while many trans people choose to have surgeries, these do not necessarily cure depression or erase trauma. The people we meet in the film are empowered by affirming their true gender, by embracing their true self.

Transgender women, men, and non-binary people are becoming more accepted in mainstream society but we still have a long way to go in order to assure a positive future for the next generation. Health care should be part of a larger conversation; medical education in transgender care is running very behind as there is a huge lack of research on transgender health. In the current administration, where healthcare is so fragile, we need to remind ourselves that our fight is everybody’s and that as a society, we are stronger when we fight for everyone because healthcare is a human right.

-Tania Cypriano