I know some people probably assumed that lack of time and going to grad school were the main reasons I demitted from the Order of Eastern Star. (These are true, for the most part, and I’d include my initiating chapter being in New Hampshire as another.) But the actual reason is because of my wife, who is transgender. I promised her that I would not be involved in organizations that wouldn’t accept her as well as me, and frankly, OES (and by extension, other Masonic orders) has no statement of inclusion on the state or national levels. The closest is California’s mission statement, which stipulates respect for the diversity of its members.
But, after visiting some chapters out here (and reading some posts on Facebook from members both here and from my home chapter in New Hampshire) I began to have questions for myself: Would my wife be welcome at events or be merely tolerated by some members? If I became Worthy Matron, would my wife even be acknowledged as my wife, or would she be called my “escort”? (There is a very big difference.) If I had become an Advisory Board member of a Rainbow Assembly, would my wife be welcome to help out at events (after all the training that’s required for adults who work with assemblies)?
The answer, after much thought and soul searching on my part, was “no”. I really wish I could say otherwise. For the most part it seemed like a “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” kind of situation around my queerness. And I can’t really say it’s the whole organization, either, because the chapters I had been to here have all been really awesome. But even here, in the Bay Area, I felt I could not truly be myself, nor did I feel that my wife would be regarded as my actual wife and partner.
So, I asked for the demit paperwork from Pilgrim Chapter (my initiating chapter in New Hampshire) and did so.
I’m writing this to explain why I demitted. This is not to condemn anyone in particular or to say that the organization, as a whole, is bad. In fact, it’s an organization that I would really love to be a part of, as both it and the International Order of Rainbow for Girls have given me many great gifts. But I can’t, in good conscience, be a member at this time if my family, my wife, would not be recognized as such. I know OES (and the other orders) won’t change overnight, but I would ask these Masonic organizations to consider, on the highest levels, how they treat LGBT members and their families. I’d also suggest they put it in writing. As chapters shrink, consolidate, and disappear all together, attracting people to the orders is something that is very important. I think these orders do itself a disservice by ignoring excellent potential new members because of who they and their families are.
I invite OES members to comment here on this, but I do ask that members be respectful of each other.