Bernie Wagenblast is a tri-state area voiceover artist, transportation journalist, and GLAAD Media Institute (GMI) alum hailing from Cranford, New Jersey.
Moreover, Wagenblast has been to a couple of GMI training sessions over the years. The first one was the GLAAD Institute’s “Engagement 101 Telling Your Story: Messaging and Media Tools For Today’s Activists” on Sept. 28, 2018 in Kenilworth, NJ with Ross Murray, Vice President of the GLAAD Media Institute, leading the session.
In an email to GLAAD, Wagenblast speaks to what stood out for her at the 2018 media training.
“I think I was asked why we were taking the training,” recalled the transportation journalist. “I said I was trans, and [that] it was the first time I’ve ever said that in front of a group of people.
About five years later, Wagenblast publicly shared that she was transgender in a late December Facebook post. It was her time. A single Facebook post to her friends, coworkers, and family signified one thing: Wagenblast was ready to tell her story to a wider audience with broader knowledge about the LGBTQ community, terminology, and also, herself.
Her post read:
“As 2023 rapidly approaches, I’d like to reintroduce myself to my Facebook friends.
“For those who don’t know, I am transgender. I believe many reading this know what that is but for those who don’t, it means there’s a disconnect between the gender I was assigned at birth (male) and how I’ve always felt about myself (female). This is something I’ve known from my earliest memories.
“While growing up in the 1960s and ’70s I didn’t feel I could safely reveal this part of me. We now live in a much different time and I feel more comfortable to start presenting on the outside how I feel on the inside.
“Beginning January 1, I plan to begin living as a female full time. This is a time of both great excitement and tremendous concern. I ask myself will I be able to successfully switch to the “other team” and how will my changes be accepted.
“I ask you to be patient with me as we go through this transition. I know there will be an awkward phase as you and I try to figure things out. Please don’t worry about saying the wrong thing or offending me unintentionally. I realize everyone who knows me will be making an adjustment.
“My name will remain Bernie. These days, I consider it short for Bernadette. My appearance, voice and pronouns will be the most obvious changes. I now go by she/her pronouns. Please don’t worry about accidentally using the wrong pronouns.
“Here are some of the things that will not change. I will continue my professional commitments as a transportation journalist and voice actor and I’ll still be using the “guy voice” professionally. My sometimes perverse sense of humor will still be here but to balance that I hope I will still be seen by most as a kind and friendly person.
“Let me also say for the record that I know I’ve enjoyed tremendous privilege in my life due to my race, my education, living a middle class life in a generally accepting area, and being seen as a male. I don’t pretend that my experiences will now suddenly equal those who have been female all their lives.
“Those who know me I hope will continue to think well of me. Being trans is only a part of who I am. I hope you will remember the memories we share. I’m proud of the three daughters my wife and I raised. Whenever any regret creeps in about not having done this before I was married, I remind myself they would not be a part of my life, nor would the seven grandkids and the wonderful years I’ve enjoyed with Joy. I can look back on my career with pride on not only what I accomplished but how we bounced back from the numerous failures along the way.
“I hope one thing I can do with this transition is to be something of an educator. If you have questions, please don’t hesitate to ask. Early in 2023, I plan to release an episode of my Cranford Radio podcast where I will turn the tables and I’ll be the one being interviewed and I’ll have an opportunity to discuss this change in greater depth. I’ll post a link on my profile.
“I am incredibly grateful for your friendship and love, whether we’ve known each other for decades or only a short time. I wish you all the best in the new year and thank you for your support!”
After the Facebook post went public, Wagenblast was ready for personalized and in-depth media training. GMI Associate Lana Leonard, Associate Director of Transgender Representation Dana Aliya Levinson, and GMI VP Ross Murray delivered another training and heard the transportation journalist’s story for the first time.
“While spending a good part of my life in the media makes me comfortable in front of a microphone or camera, it’s different going from being the person reporting to the person being reported about,” Wagenblast said. “My training from the GLAAD Media Institute has helped me to tell my story in a relatable way.”
Wagenblast is a well-respected tri-state area transportation journalist and voiceover artist heard throughout the AirTrain at Newark Liberty Airport and the numbered trains of the NYC subway. In fact, her relationships and career in journalism assisted how she identified her audiences. She wanted to speak to her constituents and amplify people’s familiarity with trans people of all ages.
Overall, Wagenblast says she’s happy she can share her story for many reasons.
“First, I remember how important it was for me to hear positive stories when I was growing up as a trans kid. There were so few encouraging narratives in the 1960s and ’70s,” Wagenblast said. “I think the more affirming stories that can be told, [the more] it will help counter the false news that is being reported. Secondly, I hope it helps cis people see that trans folks are all around, including places they may not expect.”
Post Facebook, Wagenblast first told her story with the radio station NJ 101.5 with her former colleague, and radio host, Steve Trevelise on Jan. 4. This only led to more interviews, namely two larger interviews with ABC 7 New York Eyewitness News’ Crystal Cranmore, which came after Wagenblast’s interview on WNYC’s “Death, Sex & Money” with Anna Sale. These were the only interviews that Wagenblast part took in, and actually, was the basis for the rest of the coverage Wagenblast’s story would receive. Some of that coverage, filled digital news sites like the transportation journalist’s neighborhood paper Tap Into Cranford and Patch NJ. Including coverage in other local New York networks like Spectrum News NY 1, NBC 4 New York, CBS New York News, News 12 Brooklyn and amNew York. This led to national coverage with The Advocate, Into, Associated Press (AP), and even some international coverage with Italy’s own la Repubblica, and IBTTA (International Bridge, Tunnel & Turnpike Association) on YouTube.
Sale, according to Wagenblast, made sure she gave Wagenblast space to use her power to tell her story. Sale asks questions about Wagenblast’s life and how she’s navigated her gender identity as a child up until now. Wagenblast does a great job at telling her story to show something so universal: our lived truths. She does this by speaking to audiences that can relate to her from her profession to her upbringing in the 60s and 70s to the fact that she has adult children.
She spent so much of her life aware that she was holding back herself.
“I think it was both. I think there were times when I did really regret that I couldn’t let her out, that I couldn’t be that person that I always wanted to be. To guard myself against being depressed, I would live in that fantasy world,” Wagenblast said to Sale.
She navigated this fantasy world by throwing herself into journalism and voiceover work, which is why her voice then is so well known now.
“I think I threw myself into my job. That was, that was my outlet to use my job as a place where I could let off and, and show my creativity and things of that sort.” she continued.
The interviews that Wagenblast partakes in showcase a conversation about her life then, and what she is experiencing right now. While this is a deeply personal topic, for Wagenblast, her voice is a part of her journey, but also housed in the homes of those who know her, respect her, and travel with the transportation journalist’s voice through their morning commute. Wagenblast is embarking on a new chapter of her life, and we can’t wait to see what this GLAAD Media Institute alum does next.