Trans Triumph

The Voice of New York City’s Subway Announcements is a Proud, Thriving Trans Woman

“You kinda have to be loud in New York to be heard above the other noise,” voiceover artist Bernie Wagenblast tells “Death, Sex and Money” podcast host Anna Sale on the show’s latest episode. She’s absolutely right: Wagenblast, who voices the announcements for the New York City subway system, has been a familiar voice to the city’s nearly 9 million residents (and visitors to the Newark Airport) for years.

At 66, the New Jersey-born Wagenblast is just getting started. Last year, she came out as a trans woman, and is now using her powerful, famous voice to advocate for trans visibility.

“I’ve only been using this voice full-time since January 1st [of 2023,]” Wagenblast explained on the show. “My voice therapist would hear this voice, but that’s it.”

As an active voiceover artist and the host of the ITE Talks Transportation podcast, she’s proudly bringing her new voice to her work. But it took her a long time to get here.

As a kid, Wagenblast experienced the same fears as most trans kids assigned the wrong gender in an intolerant world. As a teenager desperate for trans community, she called up the one other trans person she knew of near her New Jersey hometown.

“There was a teacher in a nearby town who had transitioned, Paula Grossman,” she explains, “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.”

That phone call changed everything. For the first time, Wagenblast was able to be open and honest with a caring, empathetic adult about what she was going through.

“She was fired from her job because she’d transitioned,” Wagenblast says, “and she took a risk talking to me. But it was so helpful to me to have someone that I could confide in and talk to. Someone who understood what I was feeling.”

As Wagenblast got older, she set her sights on becoming a broadcaster, reading sections of the newspaper aloud at home to practice her newscaster’s voice. As an adult, she found herself getting the work she wanted in the industry, but she felt that she’d never see the day when she could come out as trans.

“I think the way that I dealt with it was just with my imagination,” she says, recalling spending hours at the local library looking up articles and magazines on transness in the periodical index. “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.”

Now, she’s getting to live the life she’s always wanted to live, and thriving as a top artist in her field.

NYC trans folks, who have been unconsciously hearing Wagenblast’s melodious directions for years, are feeling especially proud to have her as part of the community.

Listen to Bernie’s full story here. But be prepared: you might just cry happy tears.

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