Private Project

Acting Straight

In the short doc Acting Straight filmmakers Willem Timmers en Tofik Dibi examine masculinity in the gay scene. They discover a world full of stifling ideas about the ultimate gay man. He is hypermasculine, muscular and without any trace of feminine traits. Why are so many gay men obsessed with masculinity? And what does this mean for those who don’t fit in?

To answer these questions Willem en Tofik take a close look at their own experiences with trying to act more manly and come in contact with other men who struggle with their place within the gay community. Acting Straight exposes a hard-hitting truth: although ‘Pride’ may be their motto to live by, it’s shame for not being masculine enough that has real power over gay men.

  • Willem Timmers
    The Other Side of Town, Jordy in Transitland, Framing the Other
  • Tofik Dibi
  • Lea Fels
  • Rens Mevissen
    Follow Me
  • Lykle Tuinstra
  • Project Type:
    Documentary, Short, Television
  • Genres:
    Human interest, social issues, lgbt
  • Runtime:
    25 minutes
  • Completion Date:
    April 3, 2019
  • Production Budget:
    40,000 EUR
  • Country of Origin:
  • Country of Filming:
  • Language:
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  • First-time Filmmaker:
  • Student Project:
Director Biography - Willem Timmers, Tofik Dibi

Willem Timmers (34) is a documentary filmmaker. His films are often about identity, imaging and stereotyping, both within the individual as well as between groups and cultures. His last film 'The Other Side of Town' premiered at the Dutch Film Festival last year in the Golden Calf competition, the most prestigious Dutch film award. He also hosts, directs and edits television programmes for national Dutch broadcasting stations. Meet his work on

Tofik Dibi (37), after being a Dutch parliamentarian from 2006 to 2012, continued as a writer. Among other things, he wrote the autobiographical book 'Djinn', a theater production named 'Melk & Dadels' (Milk & Dates) and his upcoming first novel 'The Monster by Woke Ness'.

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Director Statement

Many gay men have a complicated relationship with "masculinity". A reader survey by the British gay magazine Attitude among 5,000 men shows that 41 percent of gay, queer and bisexual respondents felt "less man" at some point in their lives because of their sexuality. In addition, 71 percent said they had a partner with 'typically feminine traits' and 41 percent thought that female (femme) gay men 'gave the community a bad name'.

Research by the Dutch knowledge institute Movisie from 2009 yielded comparable ideas about gender-compliant behavior. Interviews with heterosexual teenage youths showed that most of them want a gay person to behave 'as normally as possible', to be masculine and tough, and above all not to dare to walk 'stylishly', wear tight pants, make female hand gestures or cry . Recent research (2016) shows that information about sexual diversity in Dutch schools can still be improved, and that too little attention is paid to LGBT acceptance.

When self-acceptance and self-hatred seem to go hand in hand, a connection between coming out of the closet and body dissatisfaction is not a bad thing. American research showed that gay and bi-men have a higher risk of developing an eating disorder than heterosexual men: around 15 percent compared to around 5 percent respectively. Dutch sources support this. Several researchers concluded that homosexual orientation can be seen as a risk factor for anorexia and bulimia. In addition, gays are more likely to develop a negative self-image and Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD).
From an early age, gay men have the feeling that they do not fit in with the Western idea of ​​masculinity, in which "a real man" is independent, self-assured and authoritarian, and falls on women. This leads, according to various psychologists and sociologists, to an idealization of "hypermasculity" - where some gays see having a trained body as a way to compensate for what they think they lack in masculinity.

The pressure to look impeccable, on the street and in the gym, also translates to the bedroom. A large-scale American study (2016) shows that 20 percent of gay men of normal weight had avoided sex in the last month due to a bad feeling about their body. This was only 5 percent for heterosexual men of normal weight. The gay men also felt significantly more pressure from the media to look good (58 vs. 29 percent), were more routinely concerned with their appearance (58 percent vs. 39 percent) and 77 percent (versus 61 percent) had it feeling to be objectified or judged by their appearance.

The facts from Dutch research are also clear. Homosexuals suffer from psychological problems and mood, anxiety and personality disorders above average, according to recent research by the Social and Cultural Planning Office. According to a 2014 COC study, nearly half of young people with homosexual feelings have ever had suicidal thoughts.

Many gays internalize the crushing gender norms about what makes you a real man. There are gay subcultures in which preoccupation with your body is a way to deal with a certain loneliness or something else that has a lot of tragedy behind it. Then this form of coping can be a sham solution.

On the one hand, we want to get rid of this exclusion and accept gays, but on the other hand, there are still a lot of LGBT young people in the Netherlands who have problems with their sexuality. For example, they dare to come out of the closet after puberty, walk around with suicidal thoughts much more often, and more often develop psychosomatic complaints such as a weakened immune system. So there is another big problem: even in the modern Netherlands you end up in a split. Finding your place is a challenge. This is especially the case with young people who come from religious families or disadvantaged groups, but it actually happens very broadly.

This documentary is a good starting point for finding a solution, at least recognizing that many gay men are deadly unhappy with their bodies, and realizing that this problem is two-fold - that it has to do with how both the Dutch gay community and how our society functions . On the one hand, it would help to talk more about the ruthless way in which gays judge their own bodies, and how the gay community deals with trauma and minority stress. On the other hand, we must also look critically at the heteronormative society and the largely homophobic global society. We need to investigate how we can redefine or transcend traditional ideas of masculinity, and how we can be a safety net for everyone who needs it.