Bangladesh’s first transgender news anchor praised for perfect debut

Tashnuva Anan Shishir survived abuse, bullying and suicidal thoughts to become the country’s first trans news anchor

Stuti Mishra
Tuesday 09 March 2021 15:58
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Tashnuva Anan Shishir, claimed to be Bangladesh’s first transgender television news presenter, presents the news at a news studio in Dhaka

Bangladesh’s first transgender news anchor made her triumphant TV debut with celebrations and cheers from her colleagues and viewers.

Tashnuva Anan Shishir delivered a three-minute news segment on Bangladesh’s local TV channel Boishakhi TV for International Women’s Day. She received several weeks of intensive training after being selected for the job in auditions.

Ms Shishir, 29, who has worked as a trans rights activist all her life, told AFP that her big moment can be “revolutionary and create a new dimension in people’s thinking.”

“The biggest problem is that people are not sensitised… I hope this can do that, and urge them to look after the many ‘Tashnuvas’ around them,” she said.

The moment she was done with her broadcast, her colleagues gathered around and hugged her, as she broke into tears.

Ms Shishir, who was brought up in a southern coastal district, says she discovered in her early teens she was a woman trapped in a man’s body and was sexually assaulted and bullied for years.

“The bullying was so unbearable I attempted suicide four times. My father stopped talking to me for years,” she said.

“When I couldn’t cope with it any more, I left home,” she says. “I couldn’t stand the neighbours telling my father about how I should act or walk in a masculine way.”

She decided to leave her home and moved to capital Dhaka where she lived alone for a while before shifting to the central city of Narayanganj.

She survived in a country where trans people face widespread discrimination and ostracisation by picking up menial jobs while she got her hormone therapy done. In south Asia, the trans population is often forced into begging and prostitution.

Ms Shishir, however, is not new to breaking glass ceilings. In January this year, 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.

She credits the channel for being “brave enough” to employ her without thinking of hurting the sentiments of the conservative sections of the society.

"I don’t want any members of the [transgender] community to suffer. I don’t want them to live a miserable life. I hope they will find work according to their skills," she said.

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