Thomas Jefferson University


About DocNights with PFS

Presented with the Philadelphia Film Society (PFS), DocNights showcases celebrated contemporary documentaries exploring vital issues that affect our world, followed by enriching post-screening Q&As featuring the documentary subjects, filmmakers, and university conversation partners.

During 2020-2021, DocNights will continue to feature films about diverse issues that members of the LGBTQ+ community experience every day. Whether it is an internal journey of self-discovery and recovery, coming out to loved ones, or facing challenges in the workplace, this collection hopes to inform while encouraging compassion and enriching conversations. 

In an effort to bring these important and enlightening stories to members of the Philadelphia community, DocNights is free and open to the public. The screenings and the Q+A will all convene virtually due to Covid-19 safety guidelines. This series is co-presented with William Way LGBT Community Center.

DocNights 2020-2021


Killing Patient Zero, directed by Laurie Lynd
Tuesday, March 23, 7-8 p.m., Zoom
Free and open to the public

Join us for the next DocNights event of this year: a virtual talkback and Q&A about the documentary Killing Patient Zero.

About the Film
After the Stonewall riots and at the height of the gay liberation movement in America, an entire generation was busy celebrating its newfound emancipation, unaware of an impending epidemic. A disease that seemed determined to wipe out an entire generation of gay men, was largely ignored by politicians and the mainstream media. Gaetan Dugas was a French-Canadian flight attendant, who offered to help early scientific research into the origins of AIDS. An unfortunate series of events followed and he would be vilified as Patient Zero, the man who gave us AIDS.

About the Talkback
Join us on Tuesday, March 23, for a film talkback with special guests Richard McKay, author of Patient Zero and the Making of the AIDS Epidemic and Laurie Lynd, director of Killing Patient Zero, moderated by Bob Skiba, Curator, John J. Wilcox Jr. LGBT Archives, William Way LGBT Community Center.


Born to Be, directed by Tania Cypriano
Tuesday, January 19, 7-8 p.m., Zoom
Free and open to the public

Join us for the second DocNights event of this year: a virtual talkback and Q&A about the documentary Born to Be, with the film’s director, Tania Cypriano.

About the Film
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 all transgender and non-binary people have access to quality transition-related 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 the gender norms and stereotypes. The film addresses the nuances and complexities of gender, exploring key issues around the human right to define gender for oneself. Through the transitions 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.

About the Talkback
Born to Be director Tania Cypriano, Dr. Jess Ting, and Dr. Bella Avanessian will join us for a talkback discussion and Q&A about the documentary, moderated by Megan Voeller, Director of Humanities at Thomas Jefferson University.

Version 2

For They Know Not What They Do, directed by Daniel Karslake
Tuesday, October 6, 2020, 7 p.m.
Free and open to the public

For They Know Not What They Do examines the intersection of religion, sexual orientation, and gender identity in America. In the wake of the Supreme Court case legalizing marriage equality, the rights of LGBTQ+ folks have been continuously undermined nationwide. Both faith and law are being invoked by politicians and religious conservatives in their arguments for the “religious freedom” to openly discriminate. FTKNWTD tells the stories of four families struggling with these issues, with close attention on the parents whose queer children are helping them explore a more loving interpretation of scripture and faith. FTKNWTD offers healing, clarity, and understanding to those caught in the crosshairs of scripture, sexuality, and identity.

This online event consists of a Q&A and discussion with two of the people featured in the film, Elliot Porcher and Coleen Stevens Porcher, moderated by Reverend Naomi Washington-Leapheart, the Director for Faith-Based and Interfaith Affairs through the City of Philadelphia.

DocNights 2019-2020


Stumped, directed by Robin Berghaus
Monday, October 7, 2019

Will Lautzenheiser was chasing the loves of his life. A year into a promising relationship, he landed a dream job teaching film at Montana State University. After his first two classes, Will visited the hospital for what he assumed was a painful muscle pull. He had no idea that pain was being caused by a life-threatening bacterial infection. When Will’s organs started shutting down, and his limbs began dying, doctors amputated his arms and legs to save his life.

Will’s world, as he knew it, would never be the same.

Within this medical drama is a deeply personal story in which Will, with the support of his partner Angel, his family and a world-class medical team, redefines his identity and forges a new path. Filmed over four years, Stumped explores themes of resilience, committed caregiving, and the life-changing potential of pioneering medicine.

Following the screening, subject Will Lautzenheiser will join us, via Skype, for a Q&A and discussion. The post-screening discussion will be led by Karla A. Bell, PT, DPT, Assistant Professor, and Susan F. Wainwright, PT, PhD, Professor and Chair, Department of Physical Therapy, Jefferson College of Rehabilitation Science, Thomas Jefferson University


TransMilitary, directed by Fiona Dawson and Gabriel Silverman
Tuesday, November 12, 2019

TransMilitary chronicles the lives of four individuals (Senior Airman Logan Ireland, Corporal Laila Villanueva, Captain Jennifer Peace and First Lieutenant El Cook) defending their country’s freedom while fighting for their own. They put their careers and their families’ livelihoods on the line by coming out as transgender to top brass officials in the Pentagon in hopes of attaining the equal right to serve. The ban was lifted in 2016, but with President Trump now trying to reinstate it, their futures hang in the balance again.

Around 15,500 transgender people serve in the U.S. military (notably the largest transgender employer in the U.S.), where they must conceal their gender identity because military policies ban their service.

Following the screening, army veteran and TransMilitary subject Patricia King will join us for a discussion and Q&A. The post-screening discussion will be led by Karla A. Bell, PT, DPT, Assistant Professor, and Susan F. Wainwright, PT, PhD, Professor and Chair, Department of Physical Therapy, Jefferson College of Rehabilitation Science, Thomas Jefferson University


We Exist: Beyond the Binary, directed by Andrew Seger
Tuesday, January 21, 2020

We Exist: Beyond the Binary is one of the first films to document the growing community of people living life beyond the gender binary, offering a first-hand account of what it is like to exist as other than strictly male or female. Non-binary individuals, activists, and doctors all weigh in on subjects ranging from gender binary/social constructs, pronouns, access, and safety. The film also tells the riveting and deeply personal story of Lauren Lubin: a person in their mid-20s who identifies as gender neutral. Lauren shares the emotional, physical, and mental changes and obstacles they face in order to be their authentic self. While their story is unique, it also echoes the stories of so many other non-binary people around the world.

The film will be followed with a Skype Q&A with Lauren Lubin, moderated by Kai Thigpen, LSW.

About the Guest:

Lauren Lubin's work shatters antiquated constructs that define gender as either male or female. Their project has started an international “WE EXIST” movement, inspiring those who exist outside the gender binary to stand up for their recognition. Lauren is a former Division I athlete who has been featured in Good Morning America, Time, BBC World Sports, Vice and countless others. Both an avid runner and activist, Lauren made headlines with their “WE RUN” campaign—which advocates for equal space and recognition for nonbinary athletes. Lauren also founded Andro Runners: NYC’s first nonbinary-specific running group.