Bangladesh’s first transgender news presenter made her word-perfect debut and broke down in tears after the bulletin ended on Monday.
Then Tashnuva Anan Shishir, who delivered the three-minute news bulletin on the private Boishakhi TV, smiled and laughed when her colleagues cheered her.
Bangladesh is home to an estimated 1.5 million transgender people, who face rampant discrimination and violence and are often forced to live by begging, the sex trade or crime.
Born Kamal Hossain Shishir, she discovered in her early teens she was trapped in a man’s body.
According to her she was sexually assaulted and bullied for years.
Shishir, 29, said that she attempted suicide four time as she could not bear bullying. “Even my father stopped talking to me for years,” she added.
She fled her home after criticism by her neighbours to live alone in the capital Dhaka, and then in the central city of Narayanganj.
Shishir said she underwent hormone therapy, took jobs working for charities and acted in theatres, all the while keeping up her studies.
In January 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.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina Wajid allowed in 2013 trans people to be identified as a separate gender and in 2018 they were allowed to register to vote as a third gender.
Shishir’s broadcast coincided with International Women’s Day and follows a series of steps by public and private firms to overcome deep-seated prejudices against the community.
Julfikar Ali Manik, a spokesman 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 conservative country.