"To preserve the reputation of the Fraternity unsullied must be your constant care."


Saturday, March 25, 2023

Grand Master Renders Official Decision on Transgenders and Masonry in Texas

Grand Lodge of Texas

by Christopher Hodapp

The Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Texas AF&AM, MW G. Clay Smith, has just rendered an official decision (Grand Master's Decision No. 1) concerning transgenderism within his jurisdiction. 

He was asked if the Constitution and Laws of the Grand Lodge of Texas allow biological women whose gender identity or gender expression is now male to become Masons. The short answer is no. The Constitution of the Grand Lodge of Texas is silent on the subject, and so he falls back on the Ancient Charges to render a decision.

Grand Master G. Clay Smith

His complete ruling can be seen below, but to paraphrase the meat of his answer: 
    1. A biological woman ("an individual who was assigned female at birth") cannot be a Texas Mason.
    2. A transgender man ("an individual who was assigned female at birth whose gender identity or gender expression is now male") cannot be a Texas Mason.
    3. A transgender woman ("an individual who was assigned male at birth whose gender identity or gender expression is now female") cannot be a Texas Mason.

anderson- constitutions- 1723 | Rabaut-Saint-Etienne

Citing the male-only origins of the fraternity as found in Article III, Section 3 of the Ancient Charges as published by Dr. James Anderson in his 1723 Constitutions, he says:

"[T]he Old Charges must be understood in the context in which they were written and at the time they were incorporated into our Constitution adopted in 1920, not given new meaning based on current  attitudes and practices among some concerning gender and or other matters. Anyone who desires to become a Mason, and any Mason who wishes to remain in our fraternity, must be a man, as Dr. Anderson understood men to be in 1722, and as our Texas forbearers understood them to be at the time of adoption of our current Constitution."

The Decision goes on:

"It is important to understand that this decision does not constitute a judgement of this Grand Lodge, moral or otherwise, on the issues of gender identity, gender expression, or transgender issues. As in the case of spiritual and political matters, every Mason is free to form a private opinion on the subject. The Grand Lodge of Texas is forever committed to individual freedom of conscience and personal liberty in every lawful pursuit. However, not every such pursuit qualifies an individual to become a Mason."

The entire Decision can be seen below. Click image to enlarge.

Many suppose that dealing with transgenderism is a relatively new topic to be confronted by the fraternity, but it's not. Several decades ago, a midwestern grand lodge went through a lawsuit brought by an existing member who underwent gender reassignment surgery to become a woman, and then fought ferociously to remain a Mason in "her" lodge. The suit failed, as the judge fell back on a common practice in lawsuits involving voluntary membership associations: because the Grand Lodge's rules and by-laws stipulated that all members must be men, and that members agree in their initiation to abide by the rules of the fraternity, the plaintiff had no grounds to sue. But that was more than 30 years ago, and society has changed dramatically.

England's Answer

In 2018, the United Grand Lodge of England issued an official "Gender Reassignment Policy". It reads, in part:


A candidate for admission to Freemasonry under 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:
a. The fact that a member has legally become a woman;
b. A mistaken belief that a member has legally become a woman;
c. The fact that a member is in the process of transition from male to female; or
d. 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 situation in England is more complex because English discrimination laws are different from the U.S. Back in 2018, the Brexit vote hadn't taken place yet, and the U.K. was subject to European Union rulings by their Court of Human Rights, as well. Freemasonry is protected under English laws, along with European Union laws from legal accusations of gender discrimination because of the fraternity's long-established, male-only admissions criteria. UGLE is officially recognized in England and Wales under the law as a single-sex association.

The problem arose, however, when existing UGLE Masons chose to undergo gender reassignment, which is when English law kicked in. The UGLE's male-only status does not protect them from accusations of discrimination against their existing members. According to a Huffington Post article published at the time, under the Gender Recognition Act 2004 and the Equality Act 2010 a biological man who has joined the Freemasons cannot be excluded after transitioning because gender reassignment is a protected right under the law.

One interesting side observation is that the UGLE has an extraordinarily pragmatic view concerning female Freemasons. Bring up "wimmin in the lodge" as a Redditt/Twitbook/Facetwit discussion topic, and stand back: the incoming barrage of anger from just mentioning the subject is like being condemned by the Portuguese Inquisition for heresy. 

Not so in England. When a woman asks about joining at the Great Queen Street headquarters of the Grand Lodge, they cheerfully direct her to the two different female Masonic grand lodges in London that represent a combined membership of more than 50,000 lady Masons (the Order of Women Freemasons with about 4,000 members; and the Honourable Fraternity of Ancient Freemasons (HFAF for Women) with In fact, when UGLE celebrated its 300th anniversary in 2017, the two female grand masters were invited to the ceremonies. It's common to find English Masonic halls with female Masonic lodges, and all three of these grand lodges cooperate on the Universities Scheme to promote the fraternity colleges and universities around the country.


  1. Surely part of Masonic character is generosity of spirit and a keen respect for individuals of all sorts. Restrictions are not Masonic and the UGLE despite its antiquity is closer to the real spirit of the Craft than Texas has been over the years.

    1. Restrictions are not masonic? So then why do we have investigation committees, balloting on who can join, and a requirement for "good moral character"? If restrictions are truly "not masonic" then why can't anyone just walk in and join? Dues are a form of restriction too, are they not? Why cant those without access to sufficient money to support the lodge join as well? Masonry has controlled access to membership from the beginning. You are way off base.

    2. So the oath and obligations you swore upon don't have any meaning to you?

  2. I propose that the Grand Master personally administer the examination required to enforce his ruling.

  3. Sorry, if we want to go back to the "foundational" documents, we will find matters of individual membership are not really a matter for Grand Lodge. Grand Lodges should deal with Lodges and Lodges should deal with members. We already have systems in place for Lodges to determine who they wish to become members of our fraternity and systems to handle issues when one member believe another has committed an offense. We need to step back and let our centuries old system regulate membership. Stop over regulating every aspect of our Craft.

  4. My personal thoughts are that if you were born a male, but identify as female, then you are not accepting the tenets of Freemasonry. If you were born a female, then the tenets of Freemasonry state clearly that you cannot be a Freemason.

    I have nothing against any adult who wants to change who they are and be someone else, but Freemasonry is sacred to many men who have knelt at that altar.

  5. Respect is good. But respecting someone does not mean that you must admit them to a lodge.

  6. In response to the previous comment, I have to respectfully disagree with the statement that "restrictions are not Masonic." My experience as a Mason is that once a petition is received, we investigate the individual, do background checks, and ask a number of questions that, if not answered in the affirmative, disqualify the individual.

    Being respectful and generous of spirit in and of itself does not mean we have to accept those that may not meet, or agree with, the ancient tenets of the fraternity. When joining, we made an oath to preserve those tenets.

  7. Just a couple minor quibbles as a Brit..

    The Brexit referendum took place in 2016, however the long, drawn out process of actually leaving the EU did take forever and certainly hadn't been completed by 2018.

    However, Brexit has no bearing on the matter. The European Court of Human Rights is not an EU body. It was established by the European Convention of Human Rights drawn up by the Council of Europe. The UK, is (at time of writing) still a member of the Council of Europe and a signatory of the convention. Therefore, we are still beholden to rulings of the European Court of Human Rights.

    This is one of those weird European things that not enough people understand, especially Brits who think we left the ECHR when we left the EU.

  8. I am having an issue following the logic of the stance on trans-men vs trans-women.

    The TX GM says that a trans-man does not qualify, because they are biologically a woman. Taken by itself, I can understand this argument.

    He goes on to say that a trans-woman does not qualify, because they are a woman. Taken by itself, I can understand this argument.

    If you argue that a trans-man is a woman and doesn't qualify, logic would dictate that you should also argue that a trans-woman is a man and does qualify.

    Likewise, if you argue that a trans-woman is a woman and doesn't qualify, logic would dictate that a trans-man is a man and does qualify.

    The TX GM, by saying both trans-men and trans-women don't qualify is throwing logic out the window, unless his real argument is that gender has nothing to do with it. I suspect his ruling is based on animus against the entire LGBTQ community.

    I agree this is a touchy subject. My perspective on this has evolved over the past several years, and involved a lot of self reflection.

    Say hypothetically there is a Freemason who becomes a trans woman. In my opinion, they should demit, the moment they decide to transition. In my opinion, the moment they begin transitioning, they no longer qualify to be a Freemason.

    I have thought long and hard about that hypothetical for several years. Then I asked myself, if I truly believe that, am I being hypocritical for not believing the opposite to be true? If I believe a trans woman doesn't qualify for Freemasonry, I need to believe a trans man does qualify.

    Conversely, if someone believes a trans man does not qualify, they must believe a trans woman does qualify. Otherwise, they are being hypocritical.

    I can respect either of those arguments, because they are being consistent. I do not respect the argument that neither qualify. That argument is based on either hate or "the ickiness factor."

  9. "Male" is a scientifically determined sexual status, identified at birth. "Manhood" is a mental, social, and spiritual status which some aged biological males never achieve. One honest moment of reflection will quickly bring examples of "overgrown boys" to the mind of any Mason.

    Said differently, "man" is a gender. It is a personally, socially, and spiritually determined gender role - a set of chosen, earned behaviors to be desired and respected - which is nearly but not always aligned with the biological sex observed at birth.

    Masonry is about manhood. Not overgrown boys. UGLE has this right, not those Texas boys.


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