World, meet Dad.

Old Man Metzger turned seventy-three this month. He was born in a city slum, surrounded by the rubble of World War Two. His father died when he was three years old. He was raised in a devout Catholic family in the grim north of England, and his mother never quite forgave him for marrying that Protestant girl. Although he later went on to achieve a doctorate in chemistry and taught for more than thirty years, he was still most qualified to teach religious studies from his church upbringing. To this day, he remembers more Catholic dogma than I ever learned in the first place.

I did not want to come out to my father.

That’s us. A snippet of the family. My older brother, my father, and me. (And yes, I was cute once.) My father regarded success as academic brilliance, financial security, and a disdain for fools. While my asexuality was never a problem–if we were American, I’ve no doubt my father would have made a habit of sitting on the porch with a shotgun to discourage would-be suitors–I had no doubt that being trans was going to be something entirely different.

This is the UK, after all. A hotbed of transphobic press, and almost every comedy act in our media history donning drag at some point for a laugh. Trans women were a joke. Trans men didn’t exist. I was twenty before I learned there was a name for my feelings, never mind a history, a community, and a shared existence.

And my conservative father with the Catholic family was not going to be different.

Until he was.

Initially, he wasn’t. His reaction to my coming out was simply, “No.” I left him a letter, explaining that he either accepted having two sons, or was left with only one and lost his daughter anyway, then drove him. I cried the whole way. Three hundred miles, convinced I’d lost my father, the man who had made me who I was, and who I loved more irrationally than anyone on this earth.

That evening, I got a text message.

“Don’t be stupid. You are mine, and I will always support you.”

I didn’t keep the message, but the exact words are carved onto my brain. I cried some more. I sent a thank you. We didn’t discuss the matter further. (We’re good at not talking about it in my family. British good.)

A year after I came out, he said my name without having to be corrected. Two years after I came out, he got confused on the phone and thought he’d accidentally called my brother instead of me. Three years after I came out, he told me I needed a shave, the first acknowledgement of my physical transition that he ever made. Four years after I came out, he told his transphobic sister she only had herself to blame for my refusal to talk to her.

This picture was taken in Australia (duh…) earlier this year. We were separated at security in Hong Kong International Airport. When I went to find Old Man Metzger, he was loudly repeating to some poor exasperated security guard that no, he couldn’t move along, he was waiting for his son, damn it.

It was the first time he called me that.

It’s taken time. It’s taken a hell of a lot of patience and good humour on my part. He still hasn’t quite got the hang of pronouns. He thinks I’m a dippy artistic type and constantly grumbles that I’m only good for getting a round in at the pub when I deign to visit. I know he still keeps my old graduation picture in his wallet, the one that everyone now assumes must be my sister.

But we’re fine.

Five years can make all the difference.