Dear brothers, sisters, and siblings,

I am a queer Odd Fellow. Mountain View Lodge (#244) has been tolerant of members such as myself, but we have reached a new milestone. Tonight we decide whether to hang the Philadelphia pride flag and trans flag in the windows overlooking Castro Street, downtown, just as Shelter-in-Place will go into the second phase. With all June events for the 50th anniversary of Pride canceled, there is little celebration to be had. So Past Grand Jessica Dickinson Goodman decided a show of support for our fellow human beings was in order to lift some spirits during this time of plague.

As I wait, I wonder: what sort of Odd Fellows are we?

Instead of writing this after tonight’s meeting, I challenge you now, full of anticipation, with this question: what sort of Odd Fellow or Rebekah are you? We have some crucial choices ahead of us, as an organisation. This will be one of them. We come from a wide variety of religions and backgrounds that may inform how we live our lives. I trust we may find a common ground in our determination to make a better world.

The existence of queer persons is not a political matter, nor a sectarian one, either of which would remove it from the lodge’s purview. Rather, we exist as part of the community. One, I like to believe, that can count on some show of support of my brothers and sisters and siblings, as surely as they support their country and church or temple. While I appreciate a group who will tolerate me, I adore a warm and explicit welcome.

I also call this a milestone because this is a road, not a battlefield. I have come out in the lodge as asexual and queer, because a healthy discussion requires representatives. If you’re uncertain why we need to have a discussion at all, well… I would appreciate being able to have my gender accurately filled out on the annual report. I want to know if will be safe to bring a partner or children to pancake breakfasts in a fellow lodge, five years from now. I’m wondering whether you’ll ignore or include me at grand lodge, ten years from now.

What may be a philosophical matter to you is a practical matter to me.

Sister Dickinson Goodman will ask tonight whether the lodge will hang pride flags as a show of support. In anticipation, she polled community leaders to check that this would be locally supported, which was rewarded with some heart-warming responses. Now it remains for our members to discuss and vote. Thanks to the support of other lodges who are meeting online, we discovered we are able to meet safely from our houses over zoom, during this time.

Arike van de Water – 21 May 2020

P.S. After a long discussion, the lodge voted in favor of putting up the flags. – 22/5/20

P.P.S the Philadelphia pride flag (the rainbow with brown and black bands) was created to explicitly include people of color, a way to show racial unity in this time. – 29/5/20

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