My friend Charlie died aged 56 of an incurable hereditary lung condition, idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis. Charlie was kind, thoughtful, loved a laugh and could always be relied upon to go out for a curry and a beer or two, health permitting.
Charlie was born in London in 1965 to a Colombian mother and a father with Hungarian heritage. He later embraced the Colombian heritage of his mother, Marta Lombard, an artist. He visited relatives in Bogotá, learned Spanish and became the proud owner of a Colombian passport.
What I hadn’t realised when I first met Charlie, was that up until 2002, Charlie had lived life, not very happily, as a woman. Not that it was a secret. In fact, all was revealed in his book A New Man published in 2017 (reviewed in PN 2636 – 2637). The book detailed the mental health problems that stemmed from gender dysphoria. Charlie lived at Greenham Common Women’s Peace Camp for some time, and was one of the women famously dancing on top of the missile silos, and served two jail terms for his activism, landing in Holloway prison in 1982 and 1983.
Later, Charlie studied, worked as a printer, studied some more, and ended up working for Camden council in London, all the while campaigning with trades unions for better conditions for those working in various sectors.
I first came across him at a CND event, and later at Green Party events. In fact, I learned that he had moved to Islington (in Central London) with the express intention of standing in the 2015 parliamentary elections for Islington South. His hard work in the borough paved the way for future Green Party wins in the council.
After Jeremy Corbyn 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. Birthday drinks were a must. An avid user of Facebook, Charlie’s posts ensured everyone had an insight into the issues he was most concerned about: republicanism, gender politics, peace and disarmament, veganism, his cute dog, Alice, and Liverpool Football Club.
Last year, a plaque was dedicated to him outside the Lamb pub on Holloway Road as the first out trans man to stand for parliament. Sadly this was the last time we had a pint together. Rest in power, Charlie.