FOR many transgender men and women, life can be extremely isolated.

And for what support there is available, there are often long waiting times on the overstretched National Health Service.

However Bea Marshall is hoping to do something to change that, and has started up a new support group for people in Colchester and the surrounding areas.

Mrs Marshall, of Monkwick, has built herself a successful career as a make-up artist, photographer and owner of a 'dressing service'.

The service is specifically for transgender people, and it is through this connection with the community she learned of the black hole in terms of support many people face.

"A lot of my clients were saying to me there was nothing like this where they can go for support or for someone to talk to," she said.

"People travel far and wide for things like this and it is definitely something which is needed.

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"The closest one at the moment I believe is in Kent, so those who want a service like this are travelling more than 50 miles."

The support group will initially be run from Ms Marshall's home, but she is confident it will soon grow.

She hopes it will eventually be the go to place for support across the borough, and perhaps even sees in the future others setting up smaller groups in villages and towns across Essex.

In fact, she hopes health professionals will help the group's growth and is distributing leaflets to leave in surgeries across the borough.

"I am doing it at my home at first and hopefully it will grow so that we have to find a specific venue," Ms Marshall said.

"Things like this have always been needed, but people are more open about these things now so it is more possible to help.

"But if you are trans, you have to go through the doctor to get support.

"There are massive waiting times for this before anything happens.

"There is an extremely high suicide rate amongst transgender people, and this is exactly why."

And she is right, the figures are shocking.

According to charity Stonewall, more than one in four, or 27 per cent, of young transgender people have attempted to commit suicide.

Nearly three quarters, 72 per cent, have also self-harmed at least once in their lifetime.

Mrs Marshall believes her support group will be a safe space for people, no matter what stage of their journey they are at, and she is confident it will change people's life.

The businesswoman, who is about to qualify as a fully trained life-coach, said: "This is not a money making operation for me it is about helping transgender men and women.

"The support group is run on the basis of ‘guided conversation’, which allows everyone to have a say, share their experiences and express their thoughts safely, without judgement.

"Hopefully this group will make a huge difference to people's lives."

The support group, which is called The Hive, will meet on the first Tuesday of every month between 7pm and 8.30pm.

At first all of the sessions are completely free of charge, although if the group grows and needs to hire a room, there may be a nominal fee to pay for this.

To find out more, call 07871 163438, email or visit