So, this week, I will be discussing an extremely controversial topic, arguably more so than the topic of women becoming Masons. I ask everyone reading this to please keep an open mind, and remember that we are all human beings with feelings and emotions of our own. If you have any questions about anything covered this week, please do not hesitate to ask.
Recently, something was brought to my attention that caused me to look further into the policies and relationships regarding transgender folk and the Masonic community. It was met with a lot of ignorance, and I hope for this post to help educate everyone out there in hopes that we can get on the same page and make a better Masonic community for everyone.
Alright. Let’s back up, and go over some definitions that you may or may not be familiar with. If you are more of a visual learner, check out the gingerbread man below. Think of these things as more of being on a spectrum, than hard and fast rules.
Gender Identity– How you, in your head, see yourself as far as your gender. This includes influences of hormones and how you may interpret them. Common gender identities include woman/female, man/male, bi-gendered (both male and female), genderless, and genderqueer (some mixture of male, female, both, or neither).
Gender expression- How you, in your everyday life, choose to express your gender to others. Common gender expressions include masculine, feminine, and androgynous. Ways to express your gender include clothes, the way you act and behave, the social rules you choose to follow or break, and the way that you interact with others.
Biological Sex- What’s in-between your legs. A measurable characteristic that includes sex organs, chromosomes, hormone levels and other related things. Biological sexes include male, female, and intersex (a medical condition where a child has a mixture of male and female sex organs)
Sexual Orientation- What’s in your heart. That is, who you’re attracted to. Common sexual orientations include straight, gay, lesbian, bisexual, and asexual (not attracted to anyone). Please know that these four identities (gender identity, gender expression, biological sex, and sexual orientation) can vary wildly from one another.
Transgender- Literally “across gender”. Someone who is transgender feels that their biological sex does not match their gender identity. Transgender is an umbrella term that encompasses anyone who crosses over or challenges their societies traditional gender roles or expressions. Some transgender folk may change their gender expression or biological sex to match their gender identity, some may not. Some transgender identities include Male to Female (someone born male and became female, MtF), Female to Male ( someone born female who became male,FtM), agender (without gender), bi-gender (both genders) and genderqueer (“weird” gender, usually some mix of gender identities. Often shortened to trans.
Cisgender- The opposite of transgender. This describes most people. Your gender identity matches the one assigned at birth (“It’s a boy!”). Cisgender includes male and female. Often shortened to cis.
Transition(ing)- When someone who identifies as trans, chooses to change their outward appearance and gender gender expression to match their gender identity. This may include going by a new name, wearing clothing of their chosen gender, and using different bathrooms. Not everyone who is transgender chooses to transition.
Preferred pronouns- Often, someone who is transgender may have different pronouns (he, him, she, her, they, them) than what you may be used to using. For instance, you might meet someone that you see as male, but they identity as female. If you aren’t sure, ask. It may seem a little rude, but its less rude than referring to someone the wrong way (think of it a bit like calling someone the wrong name). When in down, use they/them/their, or avoid using pronouns by simply always using the person’s name. Never refer to a transgender person, or someone’s gender you are not sure of as “it”. This is incredibly dehumanizing. Using a person’s preferred pronouns shows that you see them as a fellow human being, worthy of your respect.
What do I do if I met a transgender person?
Treat them like you would any other fellow human being. No, seriously. You’d be surprised. This video has an awesome narrative, is hilarious, and is a reminder, they are no less human than we are.
What in the world does this have to do with Freemasonry?
Actually, a lot. Think about it. Freemasonry is a very “male oriented” society. The Masonic community is sexist by nature. This does not need to be a bad thing, and never says anything like “women are better than men”, more like “men and women should have their own separate spaces”. They are exclusionary based on gender identity. If they get upset about women joining, think about how many of them would react to finding a trans person among their ranks.There have been a few cases that I know of. Most often, the ones that we hear about is after someone becomes a brother, and then decides to transition to female. Usually the person explains the situation to the Worshipful Master, and quietly leaves the organization before any transitioning actually occurs. This method helps keep the integrity of both the organization, and the person themselves. Unfortunately, there have been a few cases where a brother transitions to female, and has to be removed from the fraternity forcefully. So, if the question is, “Can someone who was born male, becomes a Mason, then transitions to female, remain a Mason?” The answer is no. However, someone in this case may be able to join Order of the Eastern Star, or possibly even Masonic women’s only groups. Co-Masonry may also be an option, as this issue seems to stem from the “male only” rule.
The opposite case, however, is not quite so cut and dry. If we are to ask, “Can someone who was born female, but has transitioned to male, become a Mason?” The answer is, it depends. In many jurisdictions, as long as someone is legally male, that is, they have the M gender marker on their driver’s license, that is the only requirement for membership. If a transman (FtM) passes (appears male enough that a unknowing person would assume they are male), there may be no question at all, and he may be made a Mason with many members none the wiser. However, some jurisdictions, including the Grand Lodge of Virginia, have barred transmen from petitioning. On the state’s petition, it asks if you were born male. Lying on the petition is not a great way to start a Masonic career. In the state of California, however, something like this is illegal. If you are a transgender male who is interested in persuing becoming a Mason, I highly recommend that you speak with the Worshipful Master in private. Often, Lodge email addresses will go directly to the Lodge secretary. I would recommend that you send an initial email asking for the WM’s information, and then speak only from him from there on. I wouldn’t worry too much about being outed, Masons are good at keeping secrets.
The secenarios and questions don’t stop there. “If a female was a member of OES, and then transitioned to male, could they become a Mason?” Depends on where they live, and how many Lodges are in their area. Someone in this position may find themselves blackballed very quickly. The Order of the Eastern Star is really kind of a interesting situation.”Could a female member of OES who transitions to male still be a member of OES? What about a male OES member transitioning to female?” Remember that there are different requirements for membership depending on your gender. Male members must be Master Masons, and female members must be related to a Mason in some way. “I think a member of my Lodge is transgender, what do I do?” Nothing. Chances are, someone has already worked out this situation. Please love and treat them like any other brother, and don’t speak ill of them. If you find yourself too uncomfortable, consider switching Lodges. Unfortunately, a lot of the questions out there will go unanswered, probably for years. As with many other topics in the Masonic community, there tends to be very much a “this is the way things have always been” and “I don’t like change” mentality. In addition to this, the topic of transgender members is a bit of a political one, which is something usually frowned upon in Lodge. It tends to be a very heated topic, and can bring out an ugly side of many members. For now, the best thing to say is that everything will vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, Lodge to Lodge, and situation to situation.
What does the future hold?
As I said previously, this is very much a “new” issue. As the years go on, I would imagine that many Grand Lodges and administrations for other Masonic organizations will develop policies as far as transgender folk are concerned, for better or for worse. These rulings will help greatly with these situations, though I’d imagine they will vary wildly from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. As far as your own rulings on these situations, I would recommend that everyone keep an open mind and an open heart. Often we lash out against those that we do not understand. Please remember that just because someone is different from you, that they are any less human. If you are a transgender person, currently a Mason or considering joining Masonry, I recommend that you do not take the hate you will find on the internet to heart. User skipearth said it best on the Freemasonry subreddit, “We are made to love all and accept all without any hate both as Humans and as Masons.”