The Freemasons, widely considered to be the "world’s oldest fraternity" with roots in medieval Europe, has moved into the 21st century with the announcement that the Freemasons of England will welcome transgender people (with some caveats), according to The New York Times.
“Gender reassignment and gender transition” should be treated with “kindness and tolerance,” the United Grand Lodge of England wrote to its local lodges recently.
“No candidate should be subjected to questions about their gender which could make them feel uncomfortable,” the grand lodge wrote.
“We expect that the Freemason would receive the full support of their brethren,” the statement continued.
While the Freemasons' acceptance of trans people is in line with England’s antidiscrimination laws, the move toward inclusion was not precipitated by the law, according to the grand lodge.
Trans men are encouraged to join the society that remains very much a mystery to those on the outside. The process of becoming a Freemason includes petitioning a local lodge for membership while also demonstrating "good character" and some sort of belief in a "supreme being." The petition is followed by a vote, and those voted to continue on must go through the "three degrees" of becoming a member.
The organization has traditionally been made up of cisgender men, with famous members including George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, Winston Churchill, Mozart, Davy Crockett, Franklin Roosevelt, Harry Houdini, Gerald Ford, Henry Ford, and John Wayne. Now the grand lodge has stipulated that a person that “has become a man” should be treated “the same way as for any other male candidate.”
The language the Freemasons used to argue in favor of inclusion of trans men can be viewed as problematic in its distancing them from “any other male candidate,” but it’s an important step in recognizing all potential members of the fraternal society.
Conversely, the grand lodge opened the door for allowing trans women who've joined before openly identifying as women.
“A Freemason who after initiation ceases to be a man does not cease to be a Freemason,” the grand lodge decreed.