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Friday, January 15, 2021

Meet Heidi Saadiya, Kerala’s first transwoman TV journalist

On August 31, she was hired as a trainee on the production desk of a leading Malayalam-language television news channel, making her the first trans-woman broadcast journalist in Kerala.

Written by Vishnu Varma | Kochi | Updated: September 3, 2019 8:57:03 pm
Saadiya had initially enrolled for a physiotherapy course as part of graduation in Mangalore but she left the course mid-way following ‘months of harassment and abuse’ by her batch-mates and seniors.

Heidi Saadiya had left her home at the age of 18 when her family refused to accept her as a trans-woman. Four years later, a period marked by extreme struggle, abuse and harassment, Saadiya is enjoying the fruits of hard-work and passion to make it big in life. On August 31, she was hired as a trainee on the production desk of a leading Malayalam-language television news channel, making her the first trans-woman broadcast journalist in the state. Two days later, she appeared on-air during a news segment to explain the future course of the Chandrayaan-2 moon lander during the lunar exploration mission.

KK Shailaja, Kerala’s social justice minister, wrote on Facebook, “At the juncture when the Chandrayaan-2 lander broke away from the orbiter, Thrissur-native Heidi Saadiya has marked another leap towards success. She was reporting the news as Kerala’s first broadcast journalist from the transgender community.”

Saadiya told the Indian Express over phone from Thiruvananthapuram that she got a job at Kairali TV, a news channel controlled by the ruling CPM, through a lateral entry in the course of her internship. “A week into my internship, the editors looked at my CV and were happy with my performance and I got the job. I was very excited to go on-air and report about the Chandrayaan-2 lander,” Saadiya said.

It was in her early teenage years that Saadiya discovered her trans-identity and came out to her family. But Saadiya said they could never accept her identity.

“At home, they have still not accepted me…they may have seen the lifestyle of transwomen in other states. I won’t blame them. They may have thought that I would bring them bad reputation,” she said.

Saadiya had initially enrolled for a physiotherapy course as part of graduation in Mangalore but she left the course mid-way following ‘months of harassment and abuse’ by her batch-mates and seniors. “Even there, I was not accepted. So I ran off to Bengaluru where I got in touch with the (LGBTIQ+) community,” she said. Saadiya underwent the sex-reassignment surgery when she was 19.

Shoring up financial strength after leaving home with nothing but the clothes she wore was not easy, she added. She spoke of begging and dancing at wedding ceremonies in Bengaluru to earn money and pay for her education. After completing her BA degree in literature through IGNOU, she enrolled for the one-year postgraduate diploma course in electronic journalism conducted by the Press Club in Thiruvananthapuram. Saadiya was also a recipient of a scholarship through the ‘mazhavillu’ (rainbow) project of the state government as part of its transgender policy.

“Unemployment is a big problem for the trans community. It takes a lot of hardwork and effort if we have to escape in life. Luck is a secondary factor. To be successful, we have to utilise all the opportunities that come our way,” said Saadiya. Before her internship at Kairali, the transwoman was rejected at many other institutes.

In the years ahead, more than being a good journalist, she said she strives to be a better human being. She also has her eye on the movie industry, where she wants to act and probably even direct a film.

“I sometimes wish if I could have gotten back the last 10 years of my life. But I know that’s not possible. So I want to explore as much as I could the rest of my life,” she said.

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