07:44, August 01 45 0 theguardian.com

2018-08-01 07:44:06
Freemasons to admit women – but only if they first joined as men

Even the Freemasons cannot ignore the subject of trans rights. The society is to finally allow women to be members – but only if they joined as men.

“A Freemason who after initiation ceases to be a man does not cease to be a Freemason,” says new guidance issued by the Freemasons’ governing body, the United Grand Lodge of England. Those who have transitioned from female to male can also apply, the guidance makes clear.

Michael Baker, UGLE director of communications, said: “While there has been no general request for guidance on gender reassignment, questions on the subject are likely to become increasingly common in future, and now appears to be an opportune time to issue general guidance to our members.

“It should also be noted that people who the law classifies as female will still be exempt from membership of UGLE. They may, of course, become members of the two female-only grand lodges – the Order of Women Freemasons and the Honourable Fraternity of Ancient Freemasons – both of whom refer to members as brothers.”

A frequently-asked-questions document attached to the new policy explains that lodges must permit members who have transitioned to female an alternative to the usual dress codes, such as a smart dark skirt and top.

And, it says: “No member should be pressured to resign from the Craft because they are no longer male.” If members are unhappy with their brother’s decision to become a woman, it would be appropriate to have a “quiet word” with them “to remind them of their Masonic obligations”.

The rule changes have come after the Freemasons asked a senior judge among their members to look into the legal implications of gender reassignment ahead of an expected relaxation of the law, according to the Times.

As a single-sex association, the Freemasons is exempt from sexual discrimination legislation on admissions. However, once individuals become members they are protected by the Gender Recognition Act 2004 and the Equality Act 2010, the paper reported.

This is not likely to be the last word on how trans people are treated in Freemasonry, according to the guidance, which says “best practice” is “developing rapidly”. The FAQ adds: “There will plainly be other questions which arise...”

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