“Freemasonry” is not a single organisation. Far from it! Every grand lodge, every individual lodge even, is autonomous. There is no central authority. There is a complex system of recognition, but there is no grand lodge that has any say over another, not even the United Grand Lodge of England.
In 1717 ‘modern’ Freemasonry ‘started’. This is not entirely true, but let’s take the foundation of the first grand lodge as a start. From early on it was obvious that different lodges had different ideas about what Freemasonry should be, so there have been different grand lodges for 300 years. These grand lodges differ, sometimes slightly sometimes significantly. Especially when Freemasonry ‘left England’ Freemasonry started to evolve in different directions.
A very rough division is what is so-called “regular” versus “irregular” Freemasonry. Rules (“landmarks”, the lists of which differ by the way) were agreed upon which should distinguish real Freemasonry from derivatives. Every grand lodge decides which other grand lodge they deem “regular”. Therefor one grand lodge can be “regular” to one grand lodge, but not to another.
A ‘schism’ occurred when grand lodges started to meddle with the “Landmark” of ‘faith’. Traditional grand lodges withdrew recognition of grand lodges that made the belief in ‘something higher’ optional rather than mandatory. Thus rose what is sometimes called “progressive” Freemasonry. Some call it “continental” as especially the European mainland was the cradle and this kind is sometimes bigger than “traditional” Freemasonry there. The latter is sometimes called “Anglo Saxon” and the the UK and USA are the main representatives.
Again later there were lodges who wanted to initiate women, another violation of the “Landmarks” of traditional grand lodges, so these grand lodges are naturally “irregular” as well.
Basically you can say that there is:
- “Regular” (or traditional) Freemasonry (men-only);
- “Irregular” men-only Freemasonry;
- Mixed gender Freemasonry;
- Women-only Freemasonry.
These kinds of grand lodges often exist together in the same countries, but it is no so easy that all “regular” grand lodges actually recognise each other and that all the rest recognise one another. Especially in the ‘progressive camp’ things are not that orderly.
With the above in mind, you can say that you have some influence on your ‘Masonic range’. For example, it is possible to join an autonomous lodge (not working under any grand lodge) that is recognised by no one, so there are no options to visit other lodges. Also, you can join a lodge of an international organisation such as Le Droit Humain or the Grand Orient of Luxembourg. Or a grand lodge with many contacts with other grand lodges which’ lodges you can visit. Or a grand lodge that is member of an international organisation such as Clipsas or AME which brings many contacts.
The world of Freemasonry is vast and not always easy to get your head around. Since world-wide “traditional” Freemasonry is largest (but this may differ in your country) and most information only is about this, the website you are reading now, tries to give a picture an undershot part of this world: the part that involves not just men. Not because this version is ‘better’, just because it is harder to find information about.