More than six weeks ago we posted a blog on an equality issue we feel passionately about, the meetings on City of London premises of several freemasonic lodges that exclude women and whose members are massively over-represented in top jobs on this local council. Drawing on both archival and freemasonic sources for our data, we have pointed out in various posts dating back to last year that since the men only Guildhall Lodge was founded in 1905, more than 50% of City of London lord mayors have belonged to it. Since it is necessary to hold the position of aldermanic sheriff before becoming lord mayor, members of this men only masonic lodge are massively over-represented in more than one plum local authority post.
The exclusion of women from lodges that the City of London allows to meet on its premises – some for free and some at discounted rates – is part and parcel of the massive under-representation of women throughout this local authority. Either the lodges in question should actively recruit women and achieve at least a fifty-fifty ratio of female to male members with no glass ceiling on the more elevated roles, or they should be booted out of council premises. One to two years would seem to be a reasonable period in which to achieve this.
In our previous post we singled out Edward Lord for criticism over their (Lord’s) defence of men only freemasonry and their (Lord’s) suggestion in their capacity as chair of the Standards Committee that if enough women councillors got together they (women councillors) could form a female equivalent to the Guildhall Lodge and meet for free on council premises. Lord’s snide suggestion conveniently overlooks the clear link between specific male lodges and greater access to the levers of power and top posts on the City of London council. Lord’s suggestion that women form their own lodge is insulting since this would self-evidently exclude them from the power and privileges that accompany membership of the Guildhall Lodge, and others such as the City of London Lodge of Installed Masters (to which Lord belongs) and various livery lodges. Lord could not possibly have been unaware of this when they (Lord) made their defence of the use of council premises by men only masonic lodges and in doing this they (Lord) was clearly placing their masonry and City of London politics above any belief they (Lord) might have in sex equality.
Moving on, we’ve become aware via news stories in the past few days that Lord now identifies as non-binary and asks to be referred to by the pronoun they. It is unclear to us when Lord made public the fact they were non-binary but on 10 July 2018 when the local paper City Matters – that has a close relationship with the City of London council – carried a story on this local authority’s gender identity consultation the pronoun ‘he’ was used to describe Lord. Checking Lord’s Wikipedia entry on 1 August we found that male pronouns were still used on that, although we’d expect them to be changed soon. Now that Lord is officially non-binary this blog will of course respect their wishes on how they are addressed; but we will not alter old posts since to the best of our knowledge they reflected Lord’s public gender identity at the time they were written.*
We also note that according to press coverage that has appeared recently, Lord is now in favour of allowing women to join currently all male masonic lodges and claims to be working for change on this score from within freemasonry. Frankly this is not good enough, Lord needs to publicly address the fact that their work on freemasonry as a part of the City of London Standards Committee in recent years was flawed and sexist. If Lord is serious about diversity issues, they should start actively campaigning for all masonic lodges to be barred from City of London premises unless they actively recruit women and speedily promote them to senior positions. This would necessitate a hundred percent turn around from the bigoted positions Lord and others were defending via the Standards Committee in 2016 and 2017.
We know that August is the silly season for press stories in the UK but it remains depressing that the explosion of words on the first day of this month about Lord and masonic transgender policies overlooked a significant equality issue that we’d raised before the City of London’s gender identity consultation, or the Grand Lodge issued its new guidelines on transgender members. Of course we welcome the Grand Lodge guidance on gender identity, despite the fact that this appears to have been a legal necessity rather than a matter of choice. An end to lodges that only initiate men may well be harder to achieve than this very partial victory, which makes it more pressing that we move forward with demands for the banning of male only masonry from all council premises in the City of London and beyond.
The header shows masonic marchers in the City of London as part of the 2014 Lord Mayor’s show. Immediately above, the men only City of London Lodge meeting in 2014 at the Guildhall, or the offices of the City of London council.
*We’d guess Lord officially announced they were non-binary either on or after the day the Grand Lodge issued its guidance that ‘a Freemason who after initiation ceases to be a man does not cease to be a Freemason’. Lord was reported as the driving force behind the move and as ‘recently’ coming out as non-binary. Press reports stated the guidance was issued on 17 July 2018. See Men-only Freemasons will now allow trans women to join (but not cis women) by Joe Morgan, Gay Star News, 1 August 2018: https://www.gaystarnews.com/article/men-only-freemasons-will-now-allow-trans-women-to-join-but-not-cis-women/#gs.21ny7NI
The LGBT press and right-wing papers were carrying stories about the new guidelines on gender reassignment for masons first, presumably because the readership for both have more of an interest in the subject albeit for different reasons (although there will be some crossover). LGBT press readers are interested in gay and transsexual rights, masons tend to be conservative men who consume the right-wing media. The liberal press caught up with the story after a few hours. This piece is fairly typical of the coverage:
Freemasons To Allow Women Members – If They Joined As Men by Connor Parker, Huffington Post, 1 August 2018.
The Freemasons are to allow women members for the first time, but only if they joined the secretive organisation as men.
The United Grand Lodge of England, founded in 1717, issued a guidance to its 200,000 members under its “gender reassignment policy” which says that new members must be male, but once admitted they can remain a member as a woman. Anyone who has transitioned to becoming a man may also apply.
Female members should still be greeted with the prefix “brother”. Alternatives to the formal suit and tie have been allowed, including a “smart dark skirt and top”.
The new policy says: “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.”
The new policy was issued to lodges on July 17. According to The Times, a senior judge, who is a Freemason, was asked to look into the legal ramifications of gender reassignment and discrimination.
The Stonemasons (sic) are protected from legal accusations of gender discrimination based on their admissions criteria because they are recognised as a single-sex association.
However, this status does not protect them from accusations of discrimination against current members.
Under the Gender Recognition Act 2004 and the Equality Act 2010 a man who has joined the Freemasons cannot be excluded after transitioning because gender reassignment is a protected right.
The new guidance comes after it was revealed prominent freemason Edward Lord was overseeing a gender identity drive as part of his (sic) role as chair of the City of London’s establishment committee.
Lord, who identifies as non-binary and asks to be referred to by the pronoun “they”, was criticised for being a member of the male-only Freemasons.
See the original post here (which if it isn’t the same as the version above has been updated): https://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/entry/freemasons-to-allow-women-members-if-they-joined-as-men_uk_5b617fbfe4b0de86f49c5e34
Criticism of Lord for their involvement in freemasonry has been heated on social media in recent days. Before anything relating to this appeared in the legacy media we’d noticed on 28 & 29 July 2018 a spike in traffic to our post Edward Lord, The City of London & Freemasonry. The Daily Mail covered the social media aspect of the story as follows:
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
Freemasons break tradition as they allow women to join the brotherhood (but only if they were born male) by Georgia Edkins, The Daily Mail, 1 August 2018.
If The Mail has quoted Lord correctly then they (Lord) is playing politics at the expense of sex equality just as they did with their Standards Committee defence of the freemasonic status quo at the City of London council. Even if there are 250,000 masons affiliated to the Grand Lodge – the figure appears inflated when compared to other sources – Lord does not need to take them all with them on the issue of equality. Indeed, given their powerful position within the City of London council, Lord hardly needs to take any freemasons with them – just a handful to get men only lodges kicked out of this local authority’s premises; which would send a powerful message. If Lord wants to be taken seriously as a politician who is passionate about diversity, they (Lord) should stop making excuses for sexism and patriarchy when it comes to freemasonry and start tackling the issue of men only lodges and their influence in the City of London by getting such institutions banned from local authority premises.
Alongside The Mail, other news outlets reported Lord as making a ‘change from within’ argument:
Lord, who put forward the proposals, has responded to criticism.
‘I take the view that I can best influence change from within,’ they said.
‘My preference would be that membership of Freemasonry wouldn’t be restricted on gender/sex, but we will never get to that point unless some people inside the organisation say “hey this doesn’t make sense, why don’t we change”.’
Men-only Freemasons will now allow trans women to join (but not cis women) by Joe Morgan, Gay Star News, 1 August 2018 (see link above).
This is typical of the disingenuous statements that are Lord’s stock in trade as a cynical politician. Lord may have alerted the Grand Lodge to various gender identity legal issues but their guidance on the matter was circulated to ensure masonic lodges were not breaking the law. The deciding factor in the issuing of this guidance, therefore, appears to be external pressure (the law). It would seem Lord has adopted a stance of ‘change from within’ because it is less effective than ‘change from without’. We favour both forms of influence and in their position as a City of London councillor, Lord is perfectly placed to lead a campaign for the banning of all male lodges from City of London premises. If Lord was serious about tackling inequality this is what they would be doing. We are left with the impression Lord is championing partial reforms as a way of preserving – as far as possible and in the face of a changing society and laws – the status quo.
Lord is a former Tory activist and an old register of interests would seem to put them (Lord) as close to the right of the Conservative Party as the economic positions of the Liberal Democrats of which they (Lord) are currently a card carrying member. Entries on this register of interests include Lord being an associate of the Institute of Economic Affairs and the Adam Smith Institute, a member of the Countryside Alliance, and a subscriber to the Libertarian Alliance. Such affiliations would account for Lord’s friendship and apparent flat sharing with former top UKIP official and fellow City of London councillor Matthew Richardson, since they appear ideologically aligned now Richardson has apparently recovered from his transphobic outbursts. They and another City of London councillor, Mark Wheatley, seem to share a right-wing libertarian agenda that at least in the instances of Lord and Wheatley embraces gay rights. For Lord’s old register of interests see: https://web.archive.org/web/20161101043944/http://www.cityoflondon.gov.uk/membersManager/memberinterests.aspx?member=4FC8F6EF-9E65-4EF9-87CF-B83CDC7DB9B4
Corporation announces review of gender identity policies by Tom Oxtoby, City Matters, 10th July 2018 at Internet Archive: https://web.archive.org/web/20180801212419/https://www.citymatters.london/corporation-announces-review-gender-identity-policies/