India gets first trans TV host

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A transgender person is to host a controversial new talk show in India.

Ippadikku Rose is anchored by 28-year old Rose from Madras (Chennai).

The first episode aired on Thursday and tackled the issue of sexual harassment against women.

Later shows plan to deal with other topics that are socially taboo in India such as gay rights, sexual abuse and prostitution.

In an interview with the BBC World Service’s Outlook programme Rose said:

“I expect a lot of positive reaction to the choosing of me as an anchor.

“The early response to the show has been good.”

Rose, who studied for a master’s degree in biomedical engineering in the US, previously worked as a web site designer and did not start dressing as a woman until her early 20s, despite feeling uncomfortable as a boy since the age of five.

Even though she is now set for TV stardom, her life has been difficult since she transitioned, particularly as some of her family are still not willing to support her decision.

“Not all of them have welcomed me with open hands. My mum was shattered, my dad burst out into tears and was full of sorrow.”

When she returned to India after studying in the US, her family looked at marriage as a “possible solution” to try and change her.

Transsexuals are known as ‘hijras’ in India and although they were traditionally surrounded by superstition and myth, modern society has been less tolerant of them.

Many are shunned by their families are struggle to obtain conventional jobs, instead turning to begging and prostitution to earn a living.

Rose has also suffered public ridicule and physical abuse, but remains optimistic that her show will change society’s attitudes towards transgender people and portray them in a more positive light.

Her story is similar to that of Ali Saleem, the drag performer who hosts The Late Show With Begum Nawazish Ali in Pakistan.

Saleem, a 28-year-old actor who portrays the Begum, has broken nearly all the taboos in the largely conservative landscape of Pakistani television.

He modelled the character on an aristocratic widow of an army colonel, and the middle-aged glamorous hostess now presides over a top-rated programme on the fledgling channel, Aaj.

And as Begum (‘Madam’ in Urdu) Nawazish Ali, she is famed for her risque monologues and combative interviews with famous Pakistani politicians and celebrities.

Her sly digs at Pakistani politics are also frequent topics of conversations amongst the urban elite, whilst her sharp dress sense such as sequined blouses has made her a style icon amongst women.