Ten years ago, I joined a fraternal organization known as Freemasonry. One of its primary missions, outside of public charity, is to provide an environment where men are meant to support each other on a path of personal and spiritual growth. There is a focus on providing a ritual framework that guides its members through life’s changes & challenges. There’s an abundance of symbolism, ritualism, allegory, and philosophy. Many members also study the arcane and the occult. These, along with seeking friendship, were my reasons for joining. The tag line so often quoted is “freemasonry makes good men better” and so, I thought, it would help me to be a better man.
You see, at the time, I thought something was wrong with me. I was socially anxious and thought I was incapable of connecting. I thought the thing that was missing in my life was quality male relationships. It’s not that I lacked guy friends, just that I felt distant and shut off. “Just be yourself” was advice that I just…couldn’t comprehend, because I thought I was already doing that.
Don’t get me wrong, I still made friends. But I was still dissatisfied because they lacked the depth and intimacy that I craved. There’s only so much I can take when I’m interested in virtually none of the topics of conversation. Despite the philosophical underpinnings of the group as a whole, at the forefront of everything was still male socialization.
After I opened up to the truth of my feelings re: gender, it suddenly clicked. I could never “be myself” because I was hiding it even from myself. Even before coming out, I was pretty gender non-conforming in that I refused to believe in society’s idea of how a man should be. But nevertheless, because I grew up being perceived a certain gender, I struggled to adequately socialize with my peers because everything ran through the filter of, “what does male socialization instruct me to say/do right now?” Even if I wanted to ignore the answer and do my own thing, it’s still a choice to be made with a social risk.
Unfortunately, the concept of being trans and a mason is a hot button issue. According to mainstream American freemasonry, women aren’t allowed to be masons. Things are a little more progressive in the UK with regard to transgender members. So far, I am only out to one of my masonic brothers, and his stance was that the search for truth and a more authentic self is at the core of what it’s about and there’s no higher calling than to be exactly that. But fundamentally, it’s an organization for men. I’m not a man, so after 9 years I’m leaving.
I’ve definitely had bittersweet feelings about that. In many ways, it marked my entrance into adulthood. At this point, I feel like I’ve outgrown it. However, it did play a very powerful role in my life during a time I lacked direction. Regardless of the social institution of freemasonry, philosophically I will always be a mason: chipping away at my rough edges to uncover the beauty hidden beneath.