Wednesday, August 1, 2018

‘UGLE extends membership to transgender people’

The website of the United Grand Lodge of England is offline as this edition of The Magpie Mason goes to press, possibly because of crippling traffic prompted by the widespread news coverage today of a new policy that extends Masonic membership to transgender people.

From the BBC:

Transgender women should be allowed to remain Freemasons if they joined as men, the largest UK lodge has said.

Expelling masons for transitioning was “unlawful discrimination,” the United Grand Lodge of England (UGLE) warned.

Women who transition to become men should also be allowed to join, its new gender reassignment policy states.

The guidance document says that a Freemason’s gender reassignment should be “treated with the utmost compassion and sensitivity.”

Irrespective of gender identity, the UGLE’s 200,000 members will still formally be referred to as “brothers,” the document says.

But informally they should be addressed “by the name and title he/she has chosen.”

It warns that using a mason’s transition as a reason for excluding them from a men-only lodge would be “unlawful discrimination and so could never constitute sufficient cause.”
The document issued to 7,000 lodges across the country, says: “If a Freemason who is a member of UGLE wishes to change gender and become a woman, we expect that the Freemason would receive the full support of their brethren.”

From the Guardian:

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, the 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.”

From The Telegraph:

According to the report, a senior judge oversaw the move to see if there were legal implications before the decision was made to relax the law on membership.

As a single-sex association, lodges are exempt from sexual discrimination legislation on admissions criteria, but discrimination against members is a different issue.

The new guidance comes after The Telegraph disclosed that Edward Lord, who is overseeing a gender identity drive as part of his role as chairing the City of London’s establishment committee, was himself a Freemason amid hypocrisy claims.

Mr. Lord chairs the City of London’s establishment committee, which has begun a consultation on ending sex segregation in its women-only spaces such as public lavatories and changing facilities at landmarks in the capital.

A Twitter row erupted as it emerged that Mr. Lord, who identifies as non-binary and asks to be described by the pronoun “they,” is a Freemason, an institution that has largely refused to allow women to join its men-only lodges.

Critics noted that Mr. Lord previously suggested gender identity was “of complete irrelevance biologically.”

One said: “So does this mean you will be campaigning to allow women into the lodges of the Freemasons as well? You know what with all spaces becoming mixed and all?” Mr. Lord retaliated: “I take the view that I can best influence change from within.”

Asked about the alleged hypocrisy, Mr. Lord told The Telegraph: “It is something I continue to struggle with and continue to think about. If it was entirely up to me I would change things, but you have to take 250,000 members with you.

“I've spoken fairly freely on this subject and the fact that Freemasons could be more welcoming and inclusive. The one area I would change is on gender.”

From the Daily Mail:

The dress code has also been slightly redefined, allowing women who were born men to wear a “smart dark skirt and top.”

Women who have not undergone reassignment surgery will still be exempt from Freemason membership, however.

In its new policy document, the policy also asks brethren to treat anyone going through gender reassignment with the “utmost compassion” and support.

It reads: “It is important that any situation involving gender reassignment of a Freemason is treated with the utmost compassion and sensitivity and that the individual is supported throughout the process.

“No candidate should be subjected to questions about their gender which could make them feel uncomfortable.”

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