DHAKA: To cheers from colleagues, Bangladesh´s first transgender news presenter broke down in tears on Monday, but only after her word-perfect debut was beamed to the nation and the cameras were off.
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.
The experience of Tashnuva Anan Shishir, who delivered the three-minute news bulletin on the private Boishakhi TV, was typical.
Born Kamal Hossain Shishir, she discovered in her early teens she was trapped in a man´s body. She says she 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,” said Shishir, now aged 29.
“When I couldn´t cope with it any more, I left home… I couldn´t stand the neighbours telling my father about 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, and then in the central city of Narayanganj.
There she underwent hormone therapy, took jobs working for charities and acted in theatres, all the while keeping up her studies.