Thursday, February 21, 2008

India Poised For Transgender TV Show Host

Although this appeared in yesterday's New York Times, I never got around to posting about it for some odd reason.

64 million people will be able to see India's first transgender TV host later this month. The article offers a fascinating insight into a culture quite different from ours, particularly with regard to some issues which are still considered taboo, aside from the obvious: that transgender people, known in India as hijras, are clearly not accepted by society.
Hijras appear in positive roles in Indian mythology, but modern society has tended to be less tolerant. A majority are shunned by their families. Many find it impossible to obtain conventional jobs and turn instead to begging and sex work for a living.

“Transgenders in India are seen as immoral and evil,” Rose said, calmly leafing through the script of her first show — an interview with a prostitute about her recently published autobiography. “I will break that image by being articulate, intelligent and a bit like the girl next door.”

“This is a radical development,” she added. “There have been transsexuals in Indian movies, but always as the object of ridicule or as villains. This is the first time in the history of Indian television that a transgender person has been featured as a television anchor.”

Interestingly enough, the channel is owned by Rupert Murdoch.
The channel was not searching for controversy, but executives were so impressed by Rose’s screen presence and determination to fight prejudice that they agreed instantly to give her a show despite her lack of experience.

I'm going to be very interested in hearing about how this show is received in a country where discussing feelings about marriage is perceived by her as a bigger taboo than discussing her sex change operation.
Rose said she had no desire to shock, but just hoped that she would be watched.

“As a person, I am very open, but this is a big television channel which goes out to millions of people,” she said. “We don’t want any bad reaction.”

She said she felt it would be fine to talk about hormone therapy and her coming sex change operation. But discussing her true feelings about marriage, for example, would still be too much of a taboo.

I do wish Rose great success with breaking this important barrier and I hope to follow-up in the coming weeks or months with an update.

Video: (h/t Jami.)

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