Remembering Charlie Kiss: 1965-2022
The following article is the text of a reading Caroline Russell gave at Charlie Kiss’ funeral, published with her permission.
Charlie moved to Islington specifically to be a council candidate in 2014 for the Green Party. Not a long way, just over the border from Camden, but a typical sign of his commitment, that he was prepared to move home, just to stand.
We worked incredibly hard together with a team of Islington Greens, but sadly Charlie didn’t get elected. Although he always enjoyed that one of the Labour councillors he had stood against came out as trans after the election so Highbury still got a trans councillor even if sadly it wasn’t Charlie.
It was a privilege to stand for election alongside him, both for the target council election campaign in Highbury in 2014 and in the 2015 General Election when he stood in Islington South against Emily Thornberry and I stood in North against Jeremy Corbyn.
After Jeremy was elected Labour leader, Charlie left the Greens and joined Labour hoping to see a properly progressive government, but he kept all his links and friendships with us greens even if we didn’t see quite so much of him.
Charlie was committed, motivated and so determined to make the world a more peaceful, fair and inclusive place and to ensure our local party lived up to those ideals.
I learned so much from campaigning alongside him and will forever be grateful for his contribution to our party, both locally in Islington and nationally, gently educating us about the experience of being trans and enabling many of us to become trans allies.
The fringe panel that Charlie organised for conference looking at gender diversity and the discrimination faced by trans, intersex and non-binary people was an important step along the journey to the Green Party’s adoption of trans inclusive policies.
Ever since learning the desperately sad news that Charlie has died, I’ve been thinking about him, remembering snatches of conversation and digging through old emails and folders of election campaign materials to remind myself of time spent campaigning together with him.
A typical email titled “Other photos” from 2 Feb 2015 had a few slightly bedraggled pictures from a housing demo attached. It read simply, “Was very hard due to rain and cold to get a good one. Were also either squashed or moving on March (and I lost the others for most of the March). But believe me I tried.”
That email reduced me to tears – I could hear Charlie’s voice and his slight grumpiness that he’d got separated from the people he was meant to be marching with and his absolute determination to get a decent photo.
I’ve been re-reading our conversations about his diagnosis, seeing his pragmatism facing such a serious health condition and the excitement of planning his world cruise, which many of us followed on Facebook as the pandemic started to hit.
And I remember Charlie’s quiet pride in having a plaque dedicated to him outside the Lamb pub on Holloway Rd as the first out trans man to stand for parliament.
I’m going to give Charlie the last word from an email he sent in January 2021 – “I know the Green Party has its share of nasty prejudice against trans people but at least within Islington Green Party itself, I never experienced it. So thank you for enabling me to be an out trans man during the campaign of 2015 (and prior in 2014) without it being a huge distraction and just accepted.”
Rest in power Charlie Kiss, friend, colleague and the first out trans man to stand for parliament.
Header image credit: Chris King