Freemasons Vow to Quit All-Male Secret Society if Male-to-Female Transgender Members Are Allowed to Stay

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Freemasons attend a ceremony in New South Wales, Australia. Some are reportedly threatening to leave the fraternity if members who transitioned to women are allowed to stay. Freemasons across New South Wales via Facebook

A debate over allowing transgender freemasons in the all-male institution has caused a rift in the ancient society, with some members threatening to walk out if the policy is implemented in Australia.

The concern follows the decision made in August by the United Grand Lodge of England (UGLE) allowing transgender women to stay in the fraternity if they joined as men.

Stephen Green, secretary of the United Grand Lodge of New South Wales and Australian Capital Territory Grand, said there had not been a proposal yet, but it could follow suit if was put before the group's committee.

But one member of Freemasons Across New South Wales told Australia's Daily Telegraph that if the Sydney branch followed suit, there would be an exodus.

"It's so far free from feminism and gender politics, a place where good men can gather and meet without having to tiptoe on egg shells, worried about social justice warriors, feminists or LGBTI police saying they are offended," the source said.

Another said masonry is "the last man cave in modern society."

UGLE has said that expelling masons for transitioning would be "unlawful discrimination" and that gender reassignment should be treated with "compassion and sensitivity," the BBC reported.

UGLE produced a document that it distributed to 7,000 lodges across England stating that members who transitioned would still be referred to as "brothers" but would also be addressed by the name and title they had chosen. Women who transition to become men should also be allowed to join, it said.

A spokesman for the UGLE told the BBC in August: "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."

Whether its Australian counterparts will follow suit remains to be seen. One Australian Freemason told the Telegraph that each lodge should be allowed to decide on who could join.

"As long as they are good people, they should be able to apply for membership," the source said.

Freemasonry, known for its secret handshakes and ancient rituals, has 6 million members globally who are renowned for their charitable work. Notable Freemasons have included Sir Winston Churchill and Oscar Wilde.

Women cannot join UGLE but there are two female-only lodges in the U.K.: the Order of Women Freemasons (OWF) and the Honorable Fraternity of Ancient Freemasons (HFAF), where members are also referred to as "brothers."