PGM's Open Letter
As you will be aware, on the 17th of July 2018 the United Grand Lodge of England (UGLE) adopted a policy on Gender Reassignment. A very useful Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) document was subsequently produced.
The UGLE policy has been adopted by the Province of Nottinghamshire and can be found on the tab to the right of this letter. The FAQs document (also reproduced here) has been distributed as part of the November 2018 Newsletter.
The action has been taken to ensure that members and Lodges of the Constitution comply with requirements of the law which as Freemasons, is exactly the stance we should take.
Should you have any questions on Gender Reassignment or find that this is an issue your Lodge is dealing with, then you are recommended to contact the Provincial Office for further guidance and/or information.
Yours sincerely and fraternally
Philip G Marshall
Provincial Grand Master
5th November 2018
UGLE's Gender Reassignment Policy
This policy sets out UGLE’s approach to the issues raised for Freemasonry by gender reassignment.
It is intended to help guide Lodges in their decision making. It does not impose binding rules and although it gives some general guidance on discrimination law it does not constitute legal advice.
This Policy does not attempt to address all the issues relating to gender which may arise as gender reassignment and gender transition become more prevalent in a changing society and when they do they will need to be addressed in accordance with Masonic principles of lawfulness, kindness and tolerance.
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.
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. The privacy of the individual should be respected and there will normally be no requirement to inform the applicable Metropolitan, Provincial or District Grand Secretary or the Grand Secretary about this change.
A candidate for admission to Freemasonry under the jurisdiction of UGLE must be a man. Should a person who has undergone gender reassignment and has become a man apply to become a Freemason then his application must be processed in the same way as for any other male candidate.
Any qualified candidate for admission may be proposed for membership of a private lodge in accordance with the provisions in the Rules contained in the Book of Constitutions. No candidate should be subjected to questions about their gender which could make them feel uncomfortable.
A Freemason who after initiation ceases to be a man does not cease to be a Freemason. We expect that Freemasons will act with compassion and sensitivity towards their fellow Freemasons.
We hope that no Freemason would engage in unwanted conduct relating to another Freemason’s actual or perceived gender reassignment or gender transition. Such conduct would not only be unmasonic but is also unlawful if it has the purpose or effect of violating the dignity of, or creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for, the victim.
A Freemason who becomes a woman is not required to resign from the Craft.
If a person resigns from the Craft then they and their dependants might no longer be eligible for some of the benefits provided by the Masonic charities now or in the future.
A Lodge may vote to exclude any member for sufficient cause. The following grounds would constitute unlawful discrimination and so could never constitute sufficient cause:
- The fact that a member has legally become a woman;
- A mistaken belief that a member has legally become a woman;
- The fact that a member is in the process of transition from male to female; or
- A mistaken belief that a member is in the process of transitioning from male to female.
Similarly a Lodge must not attempt to persuade a member to resign from the Lodge or discriminate against a member based on any of these grounds. A Lodge must not at any time require a member to prove that they are legally a man.
The law and what is considered best practice in this area are developing rapidly. This policy may be amended from time to time and so please ensure that you are referring to the latest version.
Date adopted: 17th July 2018
FAQs - Lodges
These FAQs are intended to provide some practical guidance to Lodges about how to comply with the law and how to implement UGLE’s gender reassignment policy. Freemasons are expected to act with sympathy, compassion and courtesy to other people and this guidance should be read in that light.
|Q||One of our members is living as a woman – what should we do?|
|Q||One of our members has become a woman – what should we do?|
|Q||One of our members has declared that they are not a man but are gender neutral – what should we do?|
|Q||One of our members has started wearing a skirt – what should we do?|
|A||Lodges must, where applicable, permit appropriate female alternatives to their dress code.
A dress code which requires a dark suit will, for example, accommodate a smart dark skirt and top.
|Q||One of our members has asked to be called “Mrs Smith”, “Sister Smith” and “Jane” in correspondence and conversation.|
|A||As a matter of courtesy, a person should be addressed by the name and title he/she has chosen (except for titles which are restricted such as “Sir” or “Lord”).
The only correct way to refer formally to a member in Lodge is as “Brother Smith” or “Brother Jane” regardless of gender.
|Q||Some members are unhappy that a member of the Lodge has become a woman. Can I have a quiet word with her, suggesting that she might wish to consider her position?|
|A||No. She should not be subjected to any pressure or suggestion, or perceived pressure or suggestion, that she should resign from the Lodge because of her change of gender.
It would be appropriate to have a quiet word with the unhappy members to remind them of their Masonic obligations.
If she asks questions about joining a female Freemasonry organisation then ask your Metropolitan, Provincial or District Grand Secretary for contact details for female Freemasonry organisations so that you can pass the details on to her.
|Q||Our Lodge wishes to exclude a female member. Are there any specific considerations that arise?|
|A||Rule 181 permits a Lodge to exclude any member for sufficient cause. Female members can be excluded for all of the same reasons, but only the same reasons, as male members. In this context an allegation of disharmony or potential disharmony on the grounds of a member’s gender, perceived gender, gender reassignment status or perceived gender reassignment status is not sufficient cause for exclusion.
As always when applying Rule 181, all of the requirements of the procedure set out in the Rule must be followed and great care should be taken when drafting the particulars of complaint so that it is clear what the grounds for exclusion are.
|Q||A member of our Lodge is no longer male and wishes to resign from the Craft.|
|A||No member should be pressured to resign from the Craft because they are no longer male.
Any member who resigns from their Lodge will remain a member of the Craft and will remain eligible for some of the reliefs currently offered by Masonic charities.
A member who resigns from the Craft as well as all their Lodges may lose eligibility for some of those charitable reliefs. Members who are considering resignation from the Craft should be advised to have regard to the potential loss of charitable reliefs before resigning.
|Q||One of our members has obtained a gender recognition certificate – do we need to record this or notify anybody?|
|A||No, a certificate is a private document and nobody should request sight of it. We do not record members’ genders and there is no need to notify anybody if a member changes their gender.|
|Q||One of our members has complained about comments made by other members relating to his/her gender, perceived gender or gender reassignment.
The comments were part of the normal jokes of members and were not unusual or objectively offensive.
|A||If the comments had a sufficient impact on your member that they felt the need to complain then the situation should be taken seriously. This is the case even if the comments seemed innocuous to you and others. It is important to keep in mind that harassment may lie in the complainant’s perception.
Lodges must not victimise a member for bringing discrimination claims or complaints against the Lodge or its members. That member must be treated in the same way as a member who had not brought the claims or complaints. Nobody should be penalised merely for making an unsuccessful discrimination claim or complaint unless it was clearly vexatious or malicious.
The members who made the comments should receive an explanation that their comments caused offence, however inadvertently, so that they know to avoid comments of that nature at future Lodge events. If a member who has received an explanation repeats his behaviour this is likely to be unmasonic behaviour which is subject to the usual sanctions.
|Q||One of our members has indicated that he will blackball a male candidate because the candidate lives as a woman/ wears female clothing/ is perceived by that member to be female/ has stated that he will transition to become a woman.|
|A||These are not legitimate reasons for blackballing and would constitute unmasonic behaviour which is subject to the usual sanctions.|
|Q||A member proposes to bring a female visitor to the Lodge meeting – what should we do?|
|A||A visitor must be a member in good standing of this or another recognised Grand Lodge. Rules 125 and 126 govern who may be admitted as a visitor and the by-laws of the Lodge may contain additional requirements.
The Master of the Lodge may refuse admission in accordance with Rule 126 if the visitor is of known bad character. He may also refuse admission if he has reasons to rule that the visitor’s presence would disturb the harmony of the Lodge.
He may not refuse admission if his reasons for believing that the harmony of the Lodge would be disturbed are related to the visitor’s gender, perceived gender, gender assignment, or perceived gender assignment.
There will plainly be other questions which arise when applying the gender reassignment policy. If your question is not answered in the latest version of the FAQs on this issue then please contact your Metropolitan, Provincial or District Grand Secretary.
These FAQs are intended to help share knowledge and guidance but are not legal advice and are not a substitute for independent legal advice on compliance, if you consider that necessary. Lodges which are not based in the UK will need to consider the impact of any local laws concerning gender and gender reassignment.
United Grand Lodge of England
17 th July 2018