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Wednesday, August 01, 2018

Freemasons to admit women - but there is a catch!

Headlines are designed to grab our attention and draw us into the article, but rarely are they so successful in that endeavour as this one in The Times.

The paper reports that the Freemasons are to admit women, but only if they first joined as men. This secretive society, which has been male-only for centuries, is to relax its rules. The United Grand Lodge of England, founded in 1717, has issued guidance to its 200,000 members that “a Freemason who after initiation ceases to be a man does not cease to be a Freemason”.

The paper tells us that the Freemason's “gender reassignment policy” says that anyone wishing to join must be male but once admitted can remain a member as a woman. Anyone who has become a man can also apply.

Some conventions remain. Formal greetings should begin with the prefix “Brother”, so someone who has transitioned from John to Jane Smith would be “Brother Jane” or “Brother Smith”. Appropriate alternatives to the dress code, which could include a “smart dark skirt and top”, would be allowed.

The reasons for this 'liberal' approach to membership though, may lie more in legal advice than in respect for the gender choices of the society's members. Under the Gender Recognition Act 2004 and the Equality Act 2010 a man who has joined the Freemasons cannot be excluded after becoming a woman because gender reassignment is a protected characteristic.

The best response to this change of policy I have seen so far is in the comments. NR asks 'can a woman, who decides she is a man, now be initiated into the Masons and then revert to being a woman?' He or she adds 'About as stupid as the Masons being a Male only organisation in this day and age.'

Without any intended disrespect to transgender individuals, you really could not make this stuff up. Would it not be better if the Freemasons just abolished all rules about gender altogether?
Not all Freemasons' Lodges are single-gender. There are also mixed Orders such as International Order of Freemasonry for Men and Women, Le Droit Humain, where men and women sit together in Lodge equally.
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