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Keep up on all the gay news with more stories like these. Get home delivery of the Chronicle and you won't be left in the dark!

March 17, 2006


'Sup, dude?

A year and a half as a straight guy
opens one lesbian’s eyes

Self-Made Man
by Norah Vincent
Viking, $24.95  

It doesn’t take a book with two planets in its title to tell you that men and women think differently.

Men say that women are too complex, too emotional and that they will never understand them. 

“Men!” women sneer as they roll their eyes. They never want to get in touch with their feelings, preferring grunts and gestures to “real” communication.

In the spirit of learning more about this vexation, lesbian journalist Norah Vincent decided to see how the “other half” lives. In her new book Self-Made Man, she tells of her eighteen months of manhood.

Vincent says that she was never a girly-girl. She’s always preferred short haircuts and always had a deep voice for a woman but was never mistaken for a man. Then one night, a drag king helped her dress up as a guy, just for fun. The experience was eye-opening.

On this night, men who had once followed Vincent with their catcalls now deferred to her with their eye contact. Was there a “rule” that men absorb in boyhood that perhaps many women don’t know about?

Intrigued, Vincent decided to “become” a man. She took voice lessons to learn male speech patterns. She bought herself (himself?) a wardrobe. She got tips on disguise from theater professionals. “Ned” was born.

Ned joined a men’s bowling league, where he was accepted as “one of the guys.” By visiting strip clubs and dating, Ned explored his male sexuality and relationships. He got a job, spent time in a monastery, and joined a men’s group. 

Then something happened in Vincent’s mind. Things were getting a little strange, and it was time for Ned to go away for good--and not a moment too soon.

Several things in this book are surprising. First, one would think that people who had been “victims” of Vincent’s experiment would feel used, but most of them did not. Many were, in fact, curious about what Vincent was doing.

There are quite a few “duh” moments. Several things that Vincent seemed shocked to learn might not come as much of a revelation to some readers. For instance, anyone who closely observes men hanging out together would probably come to the same sort of conclusions about their friendships.

The whole dating chapter is sadly amazing. Vincent noticed that, in many cases, men and women resignedly lump entire genders into behavior categories instead of treating each person as an individual. Anyone who’s looking for love should read that chapter.


It was surprising how thought-provoking Self-Made Man really is. Vincent’s observations will make you pick apart everything you ever thought you knew about the Other Half, and a few things you thought you knew about your own gender.

Snag a copy of this book. Man or a woman, you’ll like it.


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