Norah Vincent

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Norah Vincent (born September 20, 1968, Detroit, Michigan) is an American writer. She attended Williams College, where she graduated with a BA in philosophy in 1990.[1] Vincent was a weekly columnist for the Los Angeles Times and a quarterly columnist on politics and culture for the national gay and lesbian newsmagazine The Advocate. She has also been a columnist for The Village Voice and Her writing have appeared in The New Republic, The New York Times,[2] New York Post, The Washington Post and many more periodicals around the country.[1]


Self-Made Man[edit]

Vincent's book Self-Made Man retells an eighteen-month experiment in which she disguised herself as a man.[2][5] This follows in the tradition of undercover journalism such as Black Like Me. Vincent was interviewed by Juju Chang on the ABC News program 20/20[6] and talked about the experience in HARDtalk extra on BBC on April 21, 2006, where she described her experiences in male-male and male-female relationships. She joined an all-male bowling club,[2] joined a men's therapy group, went to a strip club,[2] dated women, and used her knowledge as a lapsed Catholic[2][6][7] to visit monks in a cloister.[8] Vincent writes about how the only time she has ever been considered excessively feminine was during her stint as a man: her alter ego, Ned, was assumed to be gay on several occasions, and features which in her as a woman had been seen as "butch" became oddly effeminate when seen in a man. Vincent asserts that, since the experiment, she has more fully realized the benefits of being female and the disadvantages of being male, stating, "I really like being a woman. ... I like it more now because I think it's more of a privilege."[6] She's also stated that she has gained more sympathy for and understanding of men and the male condition.

Men are suffering. They have different problems than women have but they don't have it better. They need our sympathy, they need our love, and they need each other more than anything else. They need to be together.[6]

Voluntary Madness[edit]

Vincent's book Voluntary Madness[3] is about her experiences as an inpatient in a mental hospital. Suffering from depression after her eighteen months living disguised as a man, she felt she was a danger to herself.[2] On the advice of her psychologist she committed herself to a mental institution. Vincent spent time in three institutions – one urban, public and ill-funded; one small-town; and one private and expensive. She found some parts of the mental health care system beset by arrogant doctors and over-reliance on drugs as therapy, while others addressed merely the symptoms instead of their underlying causes.

Nevertheless, she also felt, after her experiences, that despite the multiple failures of the institutions she visited, a lack of willpower on the part of certain patients also played a part in delaying or preventing their recovery.[2]

Although Vincent did not gain access to the hospital by means of deception, her exposé can be compared to Ten Days in a Mad-House by undercover reporter Nellie Bly, written more than a century previously (1887). The Rosenhan experiment in the 1970s also provides a comparison of life inside several mental hospitals. However, Vincent's own experiences with minor mental health issues and more serious traumatic life incidents have distinguished her own, personal experiences in mental hospitals[3] from those of mentally healthy people who have visited similar institutions.[9] Likewise, both her experiences and that of Nellie Bly[10] differ from the Rosenhan experiment in their preference for personal experience over formal experiments with sample groups.


  1. ^ a b c "Nora Vincent". Lyceum Agency. Archived from the original on April 10, 2015. Retrieved July 19, 2021.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g Grigoriadis, Vanessa (January 23, 2009). "Checking In". The New York Times. Archived from the original on January 1, 2010. Retrieved July 19, 2021.
  3. ^ a b c Vincent, Norah (December 2009). Voluntary Madness: Lost and Found in the Mental Healthcare System. ISBN 978-0143116851.
  4. ^ "Homepage". Nora Vincent. Archived from the original on May 25, 2015. Retrieved July 19, 2021.
  5. ^ "Double agent". The Guardian. London. 2006-03-18. Retrieved 2010-05-20.
  6. ^ a b c d "A self-made man. Woman goes undercover to experience life as a man". 20/20. ABC news. 2006-01-20. Retrieved 2007-11-07.
  7. ^ Vincent, Norah (2007). Self-Made Man: One Woman's Journey Into Manhood and Back Again. New York: Penguin Books. p. 144. ISBN 978-1-4295-2028-7. Retrieved 2013-12-11.
  8. ^ "Guardian Book Extracts "Double Agent"". Book Extracts. London: The Guardian. March 18, 2006. Retrieved 27 September 2014.
  9. ^ Rosenhan experiment
  10. ^ Ten Days in a Mad-House

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