BOSTON – The familiar voice coming over the radios of tens of thousands of Boston area drivers on the way to work Wednesday was the same. But the name had changed.
WBZ-AM traffic reporter Scott Eck signed off as Kristen Eck for the first time, another step in a decades-long struggle with her gender identity.
Transgender issues have been part of the national conversation ever since Olympian Bruce Jenner announced to the world that he identifies as a female and was changing his name to Caitlyn Jenner. Attention to transgender issues continued with the recent battles in several states over bathroom access for transgender people and the firing of former Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling from ESPN for forwarding a Facebook post that many found offensive.
And although Eck, 45, was aware of the heightened public interest, her decision to live as a woman was deeply personal. She said she knew at age 5 she was supposed to be a girl.
"The last 40 years for me there has been a lot of inner turmoil, and it reached the point that it was affecting my health because I didn't like myself," said Eck, who reports on crashes, traffic jams and detours from a helicopter during morning and evening drive times for the area's dominant news radio station.
She said she was stressed out, grinding her teeth, overweight, and smoking way too much.
"I couldn't hold it anymore and I didn't want to," the Barnstable native said.
Eck has been transitioning with the help of Fenway Health transgender counseling services and has been on hormone therapy for the better part of a year. The announcement Wednesday is part of a yearlong period of living as a woman, after which she hopes to have gender reassignment surgery.
"I am a much healthier and happier person now," said Eck, who technically works for a station contractor.
Eck made the announcement to her colleagues Tuesday; and as far as the newsroom at the CBS station is concerned, she is the same person she was before the name change and the same valued 19-year member of the on-air team.
"The way I look at it, Kristen Eck is doing the same great job as Scott Eck was before, and that's the end of the story," said Peter Casey, WBZ's director of news and programming.
And drivers can expect to hear the same smooth voice they have for almost two decades as they sit in traffic.