This profile is part of Queerty’s 2023 Out For Good series, recognizing public figures who’ve had the courage to come out and make a difference in the past year.
Name: Bernie Wagenblast, 67
Bio: The Cranford, New Jersey native and voiceover artist has been working in media since she was in her early 20s. As a child, Wagenblast gravitated toward radio.
She didn’t write fan letters to celebrities or popular musicians. Instead, she wrote to news reporters.
The New Jersey Star-Ledger was her Bible; reading the paper out loud helped her hone the voice that would become her calling card. Wagenblast graduated from reading school announcements to becoming the voice of the New York City subway system, the New Jersey PATH train, and up until recently, the JFK AirTrains.
Wagenblast knew what she was passionate about from a young age, and she pursued that path. But for a long time, she wasn’t able to pursue her work as herself.
That all changed last year.
Coming Out: Like so many transgender people, Wagenblast knew she was trans from a young age. From age four, she relished the chance to sit at her mother’s vanity and blissfully try on powder and makeup.
But she was hyper-aware of society’s transphobia. Figuring out how she was going to live an out and proud life as a trans woman and thrive in her industry wasn’t so clear.
Desperate to find other people like her, she reached out a local trans woman who she hoped might have some answers.
“There was a teacher in a nearby town who had transitioned, Paula Grossman,” Wagenblast told Anna Sale on the podcast Death, Sex, and Money, “and I looked up her address in the phone book and I actually sent her a letter and told her about myself. We made arrangements for her to call me one evening at a payphone that was maybe half a mile away from where I lived. And she called me.”
Those phone calls meant everything. Grossman had been fired from her teaching job simply for coming out. And she took an even bigger risk by talking to Wagenblast.
But as Wagenblast recalls, those phone calls were a lifeline during a time when presenting as her true gender seemed impossible.
Meanwhile, there was still so much to accomplish. By 1980, she could hear her traffic report on TV as broadcasted by a gorgeous woman in a gimmicky segment that, magically, gave Wagenblast a covert sense of gender euphoria.
“The first time I was ever on TV was in the body of a beautiful woman,” she told the Washington Post in a recent profile. “I could take great pleasure in that, but I couldn’t share that with anybody else.”
Back then, she didn’t feel comfortable talking about her identity with others. But by 2021, she’d started taking voice lessons and combing through YouTube videos for guidance on voice training and feminization. Like so many trans people during the pandemic, she realized she needed to make a change and start living life as who she really was.
“I don’t think there was a single waking hour of my life, from 6 years old on, that I didn’t think about being a girl at least once during that hour,” she told Sale.
In late 2022, she came out as a trans woman; and in January 2023, she debuted her new voice to the world. Currently, she continues to pursue voice work and currently hosts the ITE Talks Transportation podcast.
The reception has been exciting. Not only does Wagenblast have the support of her ex-wife and three daughters, she’s gained a new community and host of adoring fans. To learn that one of New York and New Jersey’s most familiar voices belongs to one of us felt like a win.
She’s been there the whole time, guiding the rest of us, making sure we get where we’re going safely.
Now, nothing’s in the way of Bernie getting exactly where she wants to be.