Bangladesh’s first out trans news anchor opens up after emotional TV debut

Bangladesh: First trans TV news anchor part of push to 'change attitudes'

A TV station in Bangladesh says it hopes to “change attitudes” towards gender-diverse people after hiring the country’s first openly trans TV news anchor, Tashnuva Anan Shishir.

Shishir made history with her first three-minute broadcast for Boishakhi TV on International Women’s Day (8 March).

The 29-year-old previously worked as an activist and actress, and will continue to study public health at a Dhaka university alongside her new job at Boishakhi TV.

After reading her first broadcast, Shishir cried as colleagues clapped and cheered. “I was very nervous, I was feeling so much emotional, but I had in my mind that I must overcome this ordeal, this final test,” she told The Hollywood Reporter.

There are an estimated 1.5 million trans people living in Bangladesh, and many suffer harassment, violence and abuse because of their gender identity. Trans people in Bangladesh also face huge barriers to employment, with many turning to begging or sex work to survive.

However, trans rights have been gradually strengthened in recent years.

In 2013, trans people were recognised as a separate gender and in 2019 gained voting rights when officials introduced “hijra”, referring to transgender people, as an additional option on voting forms. Last year, the first Islamic college for trans Muslims opened in Dhaka, with 40 people enrolling on the first day.

Boishakhi TV said it wanted to be part of these changes and has hired a second trans person in its drama department.

Tipu Alam Milon, the station’s deputy managing director, said: “Our prime minister has taken many steps for the transgender people. Encouraged by such steps, we have appointed two transgender people. We want the attitude of society to change through these appointments.”

Shishir came out as trans in her early teens, and faced bullying and sexual exploitation from friends, family and neighbours as a result. She left home after her father stopped speaking to her, moving to Dhaka where she’s worked for charities and in theatres.