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Vale of Tears

I came out as gay to my dad November 11, 1987.
It did not go well. He told me to never bring it up again.

Needless to say, I brought it up. Again and again and again. For the next three years we struggled through heated conversations, strained phone calls, and letters that I wrote to him, as well as my mum, and my seven siblings.

On March 4, 1990, my then boyfriend, Michael and I attended my nana’s birthday celebration. She was my father’s mother, and she accepted my relationship with Michael. The next day Dad wrote me a letter, something he had never done before.

The letter read:

I was honoured to be invited to participate in the 10th Biennale Internationale du lin de Portneuf, in Quebec.

Dear Philip,

In March 1945 when I was in Bermuda I received a letter from my Dad. He started out by saying this was the hardest letters he had ever had to write but it was to tell me and my brother Alan that Dad & Mom had received word that our brother Cyril had been killed.

As I write this letter I know how he felt.

I am sorry to say that because of what happened on Sunday, March 4, that from now on you will not be invited to anymore Family functions unless you change and I doubt if you will. Have a happy birthday on the 11th.


That letter marked a turning point in my relationship with my dad.  We were never as far apart as when I realized that, to my father, I was dead.  It took another four years for us to arrive at a place of mutual respect and acceptance.  Despite that fierce seven year struggle I consider myself lucky. 

I was 28 when I came out.  I was living independently and had the support of my lover, friends and some of my siblings.  So many queer folk are disowned by their families. Up to 40% of homeless youth in Canada identify as LGBTQ2S (Western University study).  Across the world queer people are denied housing, persecuted, beaten, driven to suicide or murdered.  For many, “home” is something longed for but not always found.

“Vale of Tears” is a Christian phrase that refers to the tribulations of life that Christian doctrine says are left behind only when one leaves the world and enters heaven.  The letter from my father floats on a linen tablecloth that was given to me by my nana.  I didn’t know it at the time, but my nana’s 95th birthday and the letter that my father penned the next day, set me on a path to find my own home with my own chosen family.

*click for large images

Vale of Tears (2023)
45” X 45”
Mixed media