A Self-Made Man

Norah Vincent has lived as a man. She didn't undergo a sex change or radical hormone treatments. She simply went undercover. In an extraordinary feat of acting, disguise and guts, Vincent lived among men -- as a man -- for 18 months to see what life was like on the other side of the gender divide.

"This wasn't just a stunt. This was about learning. This is a human project. It was about finding something out about the human creature. ... And I learned it the best possible way because I went through it," Vincent told "20/20's" JuJu Chang.

Growing up in the Midwest with her actress mother, lawyer father and two older brothers, Vincent was a tomboy with a flair for the dramatic. She says she's still a tomboy, and a lesbian living in midtown Manhattan with her partner, Lisa.

At 5 feet, 10 inches and 155 pounds, Vincent passed as a medium-build man she called Ned. Her transformation began with a buzz cut, baggy men's clothes, and a too-small sports bra to flatten her breasts. She even wore a little padding in a jock strap. For the rest, she enlisted the help of makeup artist Ryan McWilliams, who created Ned's five-o'-clock shadow.

Then there was the theatrical component. Vincent underwent months of training with Juilliard voice teacher Kate Maré to learn how to sound like a man. "Women have much stronger nasal resonances as a rule," Maré explained.

When all the pieces were put together -- hair, makeup, voice, posture and style -- the transformation was complete, and Norah Vincent became Ned Vincent.

Becoming One of the Guys

Vincent, a journalist, didn't take the project lightly. She estimates she put on Ned's whiskers and clothes about 150 times during her 18-month experiment. "I wanted to enter males' spheres of interest and ... see how men are with each other. I wanted to make friends with men. I wanted to know how male friendships work from the inside out," she told "20/20."

Vincent's first act as a newly minted male was to join a quintessential bastion of camaraderie -- a men's bowling team in a working-class Pennsylvania neighborhood. The only problem: She's a terrible bowler.

But the men didn't boot her off the team. "It's an amazing thing, because I think that shows you the generosity that they had," she said.

Her experience with these men turned some of her long-held perceptions about men being harsh and rejecting and women being warm and welcoming upside down.

"I mean, it was just the most wonderful rush to get these guys' handshakes, and I felt comfortable, I mean as comfortable as I could feel, right away. They just took me in ... no questions asked," she said.

The team bowled together for nine months and gradually Vincent gained entrance to their inner sanctum. She found that all the cussing and good-natured ribbing is just how men often show affection for one another.

Near the end of the team's run, Vincent decided to reveal herself as a woman. Nervous about how the guys would react, she tested the waters with Jim, the guy she had become closest with.

Vincent took Jim out for a drink with her partner, Lisa, and told him she had something to say that was going to "blow his mind."

"I said the only thing that would blow my mind is if you told me that you were a girl and that she was a guy. And she goes, well, you're half right," Jim said.

Later, Jim told the rest of the teammates, who all took it well.

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