Born to Be (2019)

Dr. Jess Ting is part of the groundbreaking Mount Sinai Center for Transgender Medicine and Surgery in New York City. There, for the first time ever, all transgender and gender non-conforming people have access to high-quality transition-related health and surgical care and often, this work is covered for the very first time by insurance.

Tania Cypriano was given extraordinary access to make this feature-length documentary, which shows how Dr. Ting’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 life being transformed, as well as how his life turned from Julliard-trained musician to boundary-pushing surgeon.

Born to Be is the kind of movie that documentaries should be. It shows you a world that you may never see, going deep into the lives of people whose reasons for how they feel in their bodies may seem alien to you. I wish that people had an open enough mind to sit and watch this film and meet each of these people on an individual level to see who they truly are. They are not faceless people that upset conservatives because they want bathroom privileges at Target. They are people that just want to live the lives they feel that they would never get the chance to authentically live.

The gender-affirming surgeries of Dr. Ting’s patients are shown — not in graphic detail, but you definitely get to learn the near-magical ways that he is breaking barriers and transforming their bodies — as well as the emotional journeys that they must make and how even the strongest and most supported of them must deal with trauma and derision.

“We can’t repair the wounds to the mind and soul that have been borne over a lifetime of neglect and hate,” says Dr. Ting. And that’s the last part of this movie, the part that we must take into the world. The surgeons and counselors and makeup people and hair removal and clothing and all the artifice of these transformations can only do so much. I hope that we can finally remove so much of the prejudice in our souls. Perhaps seeing the one-on-one stories in this movie could go a long way toward making that happen.

Born to Be is currently playing on Kino Lorber’s KIno Marquee and Kino Digital. It will be released in January on DVD.

You can learn more on the official website and Facebook page. You can watch a discussion of the movie with director Tania Cypriano, Dr. Jess Ting and Mahogany and Jordan, two of the patients in the film, below on YouTube.

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