As part of UNH’s Coming Out Week, transgender comedian and actor, Ian Harvie, spoke in the Memorial Union Building’s (MUB) Strafford Room on Thursday evening, Oct. 13.
“He’s got a really great resume,” MUB Assistant Director Dave Zamansky said of Harvie. “He’s an actor, he’s a comedian and he’s a writer. The great thing is that he plays Dale, a regular character in Amazon’s ＆Transparent.＊ And [Harvie] is actually transgendered, which not all of the [actors for the] characters are.”
Before Harvie went on stage, members of the Memorial Union Student Organization (MUSO), TransUNH and Alliance, including Alliance Chairman Rory Wilson, spoke briefly about the significance of transgender and LGBTQ+ issues.
“For me, being transgender means identifying as a gender that is different from the one you were assigned at birth,” Wilson said. “I was assigned female at birth, and I identify as a trans-man. And I find it is a very characterizing part of my masculine identity.”
Harvie spoke with both ribald humor and brutal honesty about his life as a trans-man. He was born in Portland, Maine as a female, with the birth-name of Janet.
Harvie said that he knew he felt more masculine than feminine since he was three years old. “I knew just through the expression of clothing that dresses were not my f—— thing,” he said.
Though he tried dating men throughout high school, Harviesaid that he came out as a lesbian at age 19, when he entered into his first long-term relationship with a woman.
However, Harvie claimed that the most pivotal moment in his life occurred at age 28. “I went to see author and speaker Les Feinberg speak at Bates College, and the man that introduced him was a trans-man,” Harvie said. “It was the first time that I really saw myself in someone else. When I heard his story, I just kept saying, ‘That’s me, that’s me, that’s me.’ I finally understood who I was in that moment.”
Harvie said that from that moment onward, he began to make drastic changes in his life. After coming out to his parents, he decided to change his name. Harvie said that he had his girlfriend call out a variety of male names at a TJ Maxx, and “Ian” was the one that stuck.
Harvie began taking testosterone in December 2015, after going back and forth on the issue for a long time.
“I asked myself if I could be okay like this, be the best butch I could be. And the answer every time was no, I needed more,” he said.
“Testosterone did not change my personality,” Harvie said. “I was the exact same person on the other side, just happier and more comfortable in my skin.”
Harvie then decided to undergo chest-surgery in coordination with taking testosterone.
“It was the first time in my life that I had the body that I wanted,” he said. “I felt beautiful.”
While Harvie acknowledged that many comedians produce their work from a place of pain, he insisted that his message is different.
“I’m not the kind of comic that is self-deprecating. There are plenty of people out there to say mean s— about us. I don’t need to be one of them. Anything that I say on stage, I’m celebrating my trans-ness. I love my life,” he said.
Harvie currently lives in Los Angeles with his girlfriend, a UNH alumni. “I’ve been with her for almost 10 years, and people often ask her how she identifies and she answers, ‘Queer of some sort,’ and adds that she ‘just doesn’t want to date an a——,” Harvie said.
Overall, Harvie’s message was one of optimism, positivity and inclusiveness. “If you feel 100 percent okay about your body in direct relationship to your gender, masculinity or femininity, then you’re the weirdo. Because everyone else is struggling,” he said. “In my mind, I think everybody is a little bit trans.”