Bernie Wagenblast, a veteran transportation broadcaster whose voice millions of people hear every day on the New York City subway, has come out as transgender.
“For me, this change is the culmination of a lifelong dream,” the woman known for her iconic stentorian voice told NY1’s Spectrum News last month.
“It’s imperative that I speak my truth for not only myself, but in hopes to change hearts, minds, and laws.”
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Wagenblast, who in addition to recording announcements for both the Metropolitan Transportation Authority and Port Authority also reports on traffic for major radio stations, first came out publicly in January. But during Pride Month, several New York area media outlets spotlighted her coming out journey.
“When I was four years old, I remember wishing I was a girl,” she told New York’s CBS2. “There was not an hour of my waking life probably from when I was a little kid to when I socially transitioned that I didn’t think about this at least in passing — every hour it was constantly there.”
The 66-year-old explained that learning about FaceApp filters in 2017 was a turning point for her. “I had seen on some late night comedy shows showing pictures of NFL quarterbacks as women and they were using an app that had just come out to do that,” she recalled. She decided to try out the app and like what she saw. “This was the first time I saw what I felt was a realistic representation of what I might look like.”
As she told NY1, her gradual process of transitioning led to her first night out as a woman, attending a public event for a hospital in New Brunswick, New Jersey. Another trans friend helped her get ready, loaning her a dress and doing her makeup.
“I was quite nervous about it,” she admitted. “When it finally did happen, it was amazing to experience that for the first time. So, it was—the only way I can describe it is magical.”
She said that MTA officials have been supportive since she came out to them. “They said, ‘That’s fine, we support you.’ And after the story became more public, I was very pleased to see the MTA share a post on social media saying that, oh, you know, this is Bernie, you can hear her on the numbered subway lines and on the Times Square shuttle.”
Wagenblast now speaks in a higher register in her private life and on her podcast, Cranford Radio. But she still uses the voice New York commuters have come to recognize when recording MTA announcements.
“I am used to that voice. I’ve heard that voice for all of my adult life, so it doesn’t phase me to do that,” she said. “I think that’s probably unusual for a trans woman to be comfortable with hearing their old voice, so to speak.”