Charlie Kiss: A political activist who spent time behind bars in HM Holloway

Charlie Kiss who became the first trans man to stand for parliament in 2105. Picture: Charlie Kiss

Charlie Kiss who became the first trans man to stand for parliament in 2105. Picture: Charlie Kiss - Credit: Archant

Charlie Kiss is a political activist became the first trans man to stand for parliament when he contested Islington South and Finsbury in 2015.

Charlie, who used to live off the Cally Road, caught up with the Gazette to talk about LGBTQ+ culture in Islington, the threat of the far-right and why he rejoined the Labour Party.

As a teenager, Charlie lived in the all-women’s anti-nuclear protest camp, Greenham Common. This activism led to him serving two terms and four weeks in HM Prison Holloway in 1982 and 1983.

“I used to think of myself as a lesbian,” he said. “I don’t have a problem with people calling me a lesbian about that period of my life. But it’s not appropriate now as I’m definitely a man.”

Charlie added: “In the 1980s, I visited the lesbian bars and clubs in Islington weekly and Islington was very definitely the hub of dyke life then.”

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He mentioned the Sisterwrite bookshop in Upper Street and venues such as The Carved Lion, near Essex Road, and the Bell in King’s Cross as being popular haunts at the time.

In 2015 Charlie ran against Emily Thornberry as a Green Party candidate for Islington South and Finsbury. But he has since rejoined the Labour Party, which he left initially due to the Iraq war.

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Charlie said: “Acceptance of lesbian and gay men has made such enormous advances. But we still have a long way to go for trans people and non-binary people unfortunately.” He added he had twice been in gay bars when a brick came through the window but said such attacks were less common these days.

But Charlie expressed concern that an emboldened far-right could derail the progress towards genuine equality.

“The rise of the far right here with their hero Tommy Robinson is very worrying,” said Charlie. “We need to be vigilant, fight for our rights, know our history and know that the timeline of progress is not always forward.”

Charlie added people should support the LGBTQ+ archive in Islington’s Pride and said: “I intend to donate some magazines to the archive. I hope other LGBTQ people who came out in Islington – pun intended – and campaigned also contribute.

“It’s important to understand our history of the fight for liberation.”

Charlie has spent the past year promoting his autobiography A New Man. He now works in the housing sector.

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