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.
18 thoughts on “Why I Demitted from the Order of Eastern Star”
I support you (my grandparents were members of OES). Sarah is infinitely acceptable, and if an organization can’t come to that conclusion in the time it takes to shake her hand, then you’re doing the right thing. Cheering you on!
I support your decision too Gina. I knew from the beginning when you came out many years ago that being part of the Masonic fraternity wasn’t going to be an easy road for you considering who you were. Always know that I think you deserve grand honors no matter this decision. You will always be part of MY Masonic Family.
Thanks, Max…I figured that was what you thought. Do you think that any of this will change in the future? In other words, are the Masonic orders a lost cause for queer people?
It will happen but it is going to be generations for it to happen. I have seen the acceptance of Race over time in the orders so there is hope for LGBT. Mostly it is going to start with DeMolay’s, Job’s, and Rainbows first and then work it’s way through rest of the Masonic tree. At least that is my honest opinion.
Yeah, that’s the logical thing…although, the problem is that membership, even in the youth orgs, is dwindling…I mean, my Rainbow assembly was the biggest in the state, and we either barely, or didn’t have a full slate of officers almost 20 years ago (dude! it’s been that long??)…some of the assemblies that were active while I was in are gone now, and some of the star chapters here and there have either consolidated or folded…not sure how the Masons are doing on that score, but, I’m wondering if the orgs can really wait that long…
I understand what you’re saying and support you in this decision (even though it saddens me also). My only observation, about what you wrote is that there is no national or international body that regulates blue lodges (the traditional Masonic Lodges). Those levels exist for OES, IORG, Scottish Rite and Shriners, but the Grand Master of each jurisdiction (usually a state) is the highest authority there, and although they recognize lodges in other states & countries, sometimes they don’t (i.e. state A doesn’t like that state B is recognizing France, so A doesn’t recognize B). It can get complicated, but if you are looking for a statement of inclusion on a national or international level from the ‘Masons’, I’m sorry to say that it will probably never happen simply because of the way that they are organized. Now, OES on the other hand…GO FOR IT!!!
I know there isn’t much to do for Masonic bodies, but OES, Rainbow, etc could. If I had the time and energy to really pursue it for OES, I would, but I can’t right now. It’d be nice to see some others take this up, though, particularly younger members who *aren’t* queer themselves, as a matter of principle and living up to the values that are written in the rituals.
A few years ago I, a relatively new member, attended my first big OES event, 2011 Revelation. I met the openly gay Worthy Grand Patron, and thought “hmmm, cool”. I kept seeing a woman dressed not in a formal, but in a sort of Doris Day retro dress and sporting brightly colored hair, and thought “hmmm, fun”. The night revealed another openly gay Worthy Grand Patron for 2011 and he subsequently introduced his husband and escort. Riding on a sea of rainbow bliss, I worked up my nerve to ask for an introduction to the interesting woman. After a series of coded conversational ploys, we revealed ourselves to be less traditional than our counterparts. I happy-danced my way home thinking how wonderful it was to find such folks in OES.
My husband will never be a Mason. He will not be my escort when I am Worthy Matron in 2015. He will attend our son’s DeMolay events as a parent or adult advisor after he has gone through the training. Sarah will never be “accepted” as a member (unless she has a Masonic relation), but my experience tells me that she will be welcomed as your wife.
Your demit gives you access for 6 months to the chapter of your choice. I would recommend San Lorenzo. Reconsider, please, for all those who aren’t as brave as you. Think of the others, like me, who would be thrilled by your presence. Finally (cause I like things in threes) realize: If not us, who?
Hello, I’d like to say I am a Job’s Daughter and a Rainbow girl in California! My entire family is in the Masonic Family, here in California we are extremely open to any type of marriage, I’m so sorry you had to demit from the order, your chapter should’ve supported and I hope you know it is fine here and I’m deeply sorry some people can’t support! We love you!
Hi Eujenya, I’d just like to say, as a member of the chapter that Gina used to belong to, that she wasn’t shunned by our Chapter, but rather her concern was that as a whole, OES & Rainbow Girl’s aren’t inclusive orders. I’d even go so far as to say that most people have no idea that Gina & Sarah are married, or even that her hair is (pink, orange, blue? – what color is it now???). Of course there are some who are so traditional that they can’t see past it, but I really think that there are many who would be fine with it. The Associate Grand Conductress in our jurisdiction is openly gay, and loved by all that I know.
First of all, your decision is yours alone. Based on your write-up, you demitted based on an assumption of exclusion. In my years of active service for the Masonic youth and OES, never have I felt a more diverse group. As far as my lessons have been taught, we are all inclusive and not judgemental so why is there a need to put out a statement of acceptance for the LGBT? Does this mean they need to put out a statement for straight people too? Please dont take this the wrong way. This is for discussion purposes only. I have been lucky enough to meet openly gay members for all masons, DeMolay, Rainbow and OES. One thing that is requested from them is that they respect and adhere to the dresscode guidelines their gender. If the members of the OES Chapter that you belonged to were rude to you and your wife, then that is a different issue. If it was me, i would move chapters instead of demit.
While I don’t think you’re wrong for your lodges/assemblies/chapters in your area, I would say that it is regional. There is no over arching national stance for the organizations that have national/global leadership. This is not really about the specific chapters I have experienced, it’s about the organizations as a whole (and it’s not just about LGBTQ folks, either). For example, recently the Grand Master of the Florida Grand Lodge said that Pagans could not be Masons because they didn’t believe in a real God. This attitude affects how the other Masonic orders treat their members, since the lodges are the foundation of all the other orders. If I was, say, the Grand Rep to Florida, I would not feel welcome to go and visit because I (and my wife) are also pagan.
Like I said, if your chapters, assemblies, and lodges are really awesome and inclusive, that’s fantastic. I suggest looking at other areas and seeing if you can make them ALL that way. I mean, even about 20 years ago, Florida had a black Grand Assembly and a white Grand Assembly.
In my thoughts and meditations on this since, it’s much bigger than just the LGBT question. If it was in my calling to do so, I’d be working on this. As it is, I have a calling that makes it so I can’t. I put this out there to make it so that other people can make the Masonic organizations something even better than it already is. The Masonic Family gave me a lot and are some of the most awesome people I know, I’d hate to see it die out because the Masonic Family didn’t address the issues in its own ranks…
Grand Master of the Florida Grand Lodge is correct. The Masonic organization is a group that requires a religion, not pagannistic or athiesm. If you are either one, then the Masonic organization is not for you.
Umm…last I knew, the Masonic organizations required a belief in a Supreme Being. This certainly includes Pagans. Unless it’s different where you are?
Sonia, he is wrong. From the Grand Lodge of FL website:
Do you believe in God?
No atheist can be a Mason. Masons do not care what your individual faith is — that is a question between you and your God — but we do require that a that a man believe in a Supreme Being.
Are you willing to allow others the same right to their own beliefs that you insist on yourself?
Masonry insists on toleration — on the right of each person to think for himself in religious, social and political matters.
The masonic orders require a belief in a Supreme Being. I’m far from an expert on paganism, but I don’t believe that would preclude them.
Is there a link to demit or do I have to attend another meeting
You don’t need to attend another meeting, but you do need to send a letter to the secretary of the chapter stating that you would like to demit. They will bring it up at the next meeting, vote on it, and then send you a notice that you have demitted.