‘I was shaking inside’: Bangladesh’s first transgender TV presenter | LGBTQ News

To applause from her colleagues, Bangladesh’s first transgender news anchor breaks down in tears, but only after her perfect debut aired in the country and the cameras were turned off.

Tashnuva Anan Shishir, a human rights activist who previously worked with NGOs supporting transgender people and migrants, read her first daily three-minute newsletter for a private television station on Monday, International Human Rights Day. wife.

“It could be revolutionary and create a new dimension in people’s thinking,” said Shishir, 29, who received several weeks of intensive training at Boishakhi TV after being selected for the job in auditions.

“The biggest problem is that people are not sensitized… I hope it can, and I urge them to take care of the many ‘Tashnuvas’ around them,” she said.

Tashnuva Anan Shishir, second from left, presents the news at a studio in Dhaka on March 8, 2021 [Munir Uz zaman/AFP]

The government estimates there are around 11,500 transgender people in Bangladesh, but LGBTQ rights activists say the real number is likely at least 100,000 in a country of around 160 million people.

They face widespread discrimination and violence and are often forced to make a living through begging, the sex trade or crime.

‘The bullying was unbearable’

Shishir’s experience was typical.

Born Kamal Hossain Shishir, she discovered in her early teens that she was trapped in a man’s body. She says she has been sexually assaulted and bullied for years.

“The bullying was so unbearable that I tried to kill myself four times. My dad stopped talking to me for years, ”said Shishir, now 29.

“When I couldn’t face it anymore, I left the house… I couldn’t bear the neighbors telling my father how I should act or walk in a masculine way.”

She fled her home in a southern coastal district to live alone in the capital Dhaka, then in the central town of Narayanganj.

There, she undergoes hormonal therapy, works for charities and plays in the theater, while continuing her studies.

In January, she became the first transgender person to pursue a master’s degree in public health at the James P Grant School of Public Health in Dhaka.

Tashnuva Anan Shishir gets ready in the green room of a press studio in Dhaka [Munir Uz Zaman/AFP]

The LGBT community faces widespread discrimination in this South Asian country, with a colonial-era law still in force punishing same-sex sex in prison, although its enforcement is rare.

Since 2013, the government of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has allowed transgender people to identify as a separate sex. In 2018, they were allowed to register to vote as the third sex.

Shishir’s Monday broadcast coincided with International Women’s Day and follows a series of steps taken by public and private companies to overcome deep-rooted prejudices against the community.

In November, a religious charity opened Bangladesh’s first school for the transgender community.

Tanvir Islam, who works for the Bandhu Social Welfare Society, a charity that supports transgender people, said putting Anan on the air would inspire other members of the community and have a “positive impact.”

“We have heard of transgender presenters and lawyers in other countries, but we could rarely give such examples from Bangladesh… But now times are changing. These achievements are the result of hard work, ”Islam said.

‘I was shaking inside’

Boishakhi TV editor-in-chief Tipu Alam said Anan was the South Asian nation’s first transgender TV news reader.

“I hope this will bring more acceptance and change the way people view the transgender community,” he said.

Julfikar Ali Manik, spokesperson for Boishakhi TV, said the channel was determined to give Shishir a chance to shine despite the risk of backlash from some viewers in the predominantly Muslim country.

Its debut marked a “historic milestone”, he added.

Sitting Shishir has also signed up for two films this year. [Munir Uz Zaman/AFP]

Shishir said she auditioned for other channels but Boishakhi was “brave enough to welcome me”.

Before going live for Monday’s show, she said, she was terrified but managed to overcome her fears.

“I tried to think about the plays I played in and follow the techniques I learned there. But I was shaking inside, ”she says.

Once it was all over, her supportive colleagues clapped, clapped and hugged her, and only then did tears burst.

“I don’t want members of the (transgender) community to suffer. I don’t want them to live miserable lives. I hope they will find work according to their skills, ”she said.

Bangladeshis may soon see a lot more Shishir on their screens. This year, she signed up for two films, including one where she will play a soccer coach.

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