The first transgender news anchor of Bangladesh Tashnuva Anan Shishir made her television debut on Monday on International Women’s Day.
Shishir, aged 29, delivered a three-minute news bulletin on Boishakhi TV on Monday afternoon saying, that the historic moment “could be revolutionary and create a new dimension in people’s thinking.”
She got emotional and broke down in tears afterwards as her colleagues applauded and cheered.
“I was very nervous, I was feeling so much emotional, but I had in my mind that I must overcome this ordeal, this final test”, said Shishir.
Born Kamal Hossain Shishir, said she found in her early teens that she was stuck in a man’s body, but had the mindset of a woman.
She endured bullying and sexual exploitation for years from family members, relatives and neighbours and contemplated suicide many times.
She left home after her father stopped talking to her, saying she was the reason for her family’s disgrace in society, Shishir said.
After fleeing her home, she lived alone in Dhaka and in Narayanganj. There she underwent hormone therapy, worked for charities and acted in theaters, while continuing her studies. She became the first transgender person to study for a Master’s in public health at the James P Grant School of Public Health in Dhaka.
Around 1.5 million people in Bangladesh are transgender and face discrimination and violence in every walks of life. Majority of them are forced to survive by begging or working in the sex trade.
Shishir aspired to change this dire norm as she continued with her studies and sought respected jobs to contribute to the society.
She approached numerous TV stations to ask for job, but only the private station Boishakhi was “brave enough” to take her in, said Shishir.
A spokesperson for Boishakhi TV, Julfikar Ali Manik, said the channel was determined to give Shishir a chance to shine despite the risk of backlash from some viewers from the country.
Shishir’s debut as a news presenter happened on the International Women’s Day and came after a series of public and private sector initiatives aimed at overcoming deep-seated prejudices against the LGBT community.
She is also due to appear in two films later this year.
Shishir hopes to change the society as she says she is now proud to be a pioneer in the LGBT community. She wants to pave the way for the development of the destiny of this community.
The government of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has permitted transgender people to be classified as a separate gender since 2013, and they were allowed to register to vote as a third gender in 2018.