One day, I saw a notice in the Tiffin paper that a Quaker Meeting would be in Tiffin in a person's home. I asked my sister if she wanted to go, so we went not knowing at all what to expect. We arrived at Dan & Mathilda's home, sat down in a very crowded living room, & sat there in silence. Somehow, we made it through, though we didn't much enjoy it. How could anyone sit quietly for a whole hour? I hated it. I really did. I swore that I would never go to another Quaker meeting. I do not know what compelled us to stay for business meeting afterward, but we did. We sat there politely & listened. When Mathilda talked about playing the mountain dulcimer, my ears perked up. Silly me, I interrupted business meeting (I really didn't know better, but I interrupted politely). Mathilda told me that if I'd wait until the meeting was over, she'd talk to me then. Three years previously, I bought myself a mountain dulcimer. The maker told me that if I could count to 10, I could teach myself to play. I was naive enough to believe that. When I couldn't teach myself, I resolved to find a teacher. Two days after that first Quaker meeting, Mathilda called me and said that, while she had never taught, she was willing to try if I was. I jumped at the chance. I suspect that neither one of us knew just how difficult teaching me the mountain dulcimer would be. (Who knew that dotted rhythms would be so hard?) In those lessons, a friendship grew slowly. We learned that while we were seemingly different, we shared many of the same values and could talk about religion, politics, art, and music. Gradually, we became better and better friends. Eventually, I stopped taking lessons, but we stayed good friends.
In March and April of 2008, I sensed that something was changing in me. I read Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides and immediately reread it, wishing that I could be Cal, the girl who was really a boy. On April 10, I first asked the question if I was really a boy, not a girl, which started my gender quest. Mathilda was the second person I told, and Dan was the third. They supported me and helped me the best they could. The put me in contact with Jake, a transguy who had attended the Bluffton worship group before he transitioned. When Jake said that he was coming back to Bluffton for a visit in August and asked if I would like to meet him, I jumped at the chance. I had never met another transguy at this point. He wanted to meet on a Sunday afternoon. I didn't know where to worship that. I wasn't interested in going to Quaker meeting, but didn't want to have to go north to my Episcopal church only to have to go south to Bluffton. I figured, "What the heck? I can sit quietly for an hour." So I went. While I was trying to pray quietly, a person arrived late and sat down near me. I was trying to pray but was curious to know who this person was. Could it be Jake? I looked with my peripheral vision & got very excited when I realized that it was Jake. I don't remember what happened at that meeting, but I was intrigued. After meeting, we sat around and discussed something from a book, which intrigued me further, and I knew that I had to come back.
The following Sunday was a fifth Sunday of the month, so meeting was at Dan and Mathilda's home. I don't know what I was expecting but went. Susan read a meditation about being birds in a nest; sometimes a person is the baby bird and sometimes the parent bird. I saw a vision of being a baby bird in my nest. I pulled in Dan and Mathilda as parent birds and my own parents and other family and friends, and soon my nest was very crowded with supportive parent birds. After meeting, Susan asked me if I was coming back. I said that I was and then proceeded to come out as a transguy to the group. The group asked me some gentle questions and talked about Jake; they had supported Jake through his transition and would support me, too. Berch then said four of the most beautiful and important words ever spoken to me. He said, "You are safe here." Not only did he mean it, he proved it, over and over again. He later told me that he knew those words were important and that he knew that he could safely speak for the group.
The Quakers were the first group who knew me only as "Aran." They reached out to me in a very difficult time and helped me become the man that I am.
And that, Friends, is how I became a Quaker.