Bangladesh’s first transgender news reader makes debut

Bangladesh's first transgender news reader makes debut

Tashnuva Anan Shishir, 29, delivered a three-minute news bulletin on a private TV station on Monday, International Women’s Day. She has spent her life determined to study and advance her career so she could speak her mind, she says.

Ms Shishir realised in her early teens that she was transgender but says she has faced “mental torture” as well as sexual harassment. She felt ashamed that her family were also harassed and says her father has stopped speaking to her. Ms Shishir approached a number of TV stations to ask for work, but said that only private station Boishakhi was “brave enough to take me in”. The “historic step” was taken by the channel, as the channel was determined to give her a chance despite the risk of backlash from some viewers. Ms Shishir explained that she was “shaking inside” before going on air, but that she had “tried to think of stage dramas I’ve performed in and follow techniques I’ve learned there”. After reading the news, she broke down in tears with emotion. Now, the joyous feat is being celebrated by people worldwide.

Shishir, who had been “sexually abused, bullied and tortured” when growing up, left home aged 16, but was able to continue her studies and recently received a scholarship to pursue a Master’s in public health at a top local university, earlier this year. Around 1.5 million people are transgender in Bangladesh and face discrimination and violence, with some forced to survive by begging or working in the sex trade.