The Freemasons has opened its doors to transgender women – or men – who have undergone gender reassignment surgery.
The infamous secret society issued new guidance this week, saying that women are now allowed to join the brotherhood and wear skirts if they wish.
Dailymail.co.uk reports: The Freemasons have told their 200,000 members that ‘a Freemason who after initiation ceases to be a man does not cease to be a Freemason’.
The organisation’s gender reassignment guidance – which was issued to the brotherhood on July 17 – also said that a woman who had become a man may become a member.
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.’
Some traditions remain, however. When formally greeting fellow brethren, they must be called ‘Brother’.
If someone has changed gender to become a woman, they may be called by their female name such as ‘Brother Lucy’.
Earlier this week Edward Lord, who chairs the City of London’s establishment committee and who identifies as ‘non-binary’, was condemned as a hypocrite on social media for playing an official role in Freemasonry.
One user wrote: ‘So does this mean you will be campaigning to allow women into the male lodges of the Freemasons as well. You know what with all spaces becoming mixed and all?’
Responding to allegations of hypocrisy, Edward Lord said: ‘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.’
Currently, the Freemasons’s single-sex admissions policy is exempt from sex discrimination legislation but there is one loophole.
Under English law transgender people have a ‘protected characteristic’ and can go into any single sex space.
The Gender Recognition Act of 2004 and the Equality Act of 2010 stops Freemasons from excluding transgender men and women.