Peter Shalit writes to GLAAD about his dad

In a heartfelt letter to GLAAD, physician and author Peter Shalit writes that his father's Brokeback Mountain review was not homophobic—and neither is his dad.

BY admin

January 10 2006 1:00 AM ET

Gene Shalit may
not have liked Brokeback Mountain, but he loves
his gay son and is not homophobic—so says
Shalit's son Peter in an emotional letter to the Gay and
Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation dated Monday.

"It is precisely
because my dad is not homophobic that he felt free to
criticize the movie as he saw it," wrote Peter Shalit, a gay
physician and author who lives in Seattle and is a longtime
supporter of GLAAD.

Shalit said he
felt GLAAD's press release about the NBC Today show
review, broadcast on Thursday, was a
"mischaracterization" of his father. The GLAAD release urged
viewers to write to NBC to complain about Gene Shalit's
characterization of the Jake Gyllenhaal character in
Brokeback Mountain as a "sexual predator."

By suggesting
Gene Shalit was homophobic, GLAAD had "defamed a good
man, by falsely accusing him of a repellent form of
bigotry," Peter Shalit wrote to the group's
entertainment media director, Damon Romine, and
president, Neil Giuliano.

"Incidentally,"
Shalit added, "I loved the movie."

The full text of
Peter Shalit's letter to GLAAD follows:

Dear Damon, and
Neil,

Peter Shalit
here—Gene Shalit's son. I have been a
member-supporter of GLAAD for years. I assume you were
not aware of that, but I am disappointed that you did
not do a little background research on my dad, or try
to contact me, or attempt to reach my dad through me, before
issuing your press release this past week calling him
homophobic because of his review of Brokeback
Mountain.
I did notice the "editor's note" which
mentioned that he has a gay son, i.e. myself.

By way of
background, I am a gay man, a physician, serving a mostly
gay patient population in Seattle, and author of
Living Well, the Gay Men's Essential Health
Guide,
which is a guide to gay health for gay men. I
frequently comment to people that I can't imagine
having another job that would immerse me in the gay
community as much as the one I have. The gay community
is my life.

I say this
because it's important background for understanding that my
dad has always been completely loving and supportive of me,
my life, my partners, and my choices. He wrote a piece
about me in 1997 for The Advocate (currently posted
on their home page)—and agreed to have his
picture on the cover of the magazine—because
what the piece says is true about how he feels and how he
has always acted.

I spoke with my
dad yesterday about the issues with his review. He had no
idea that his review of a movie, and his reaction to a
particular character, would be seen as homophobia. Of
course he is not homophobic. Actually the truth is the
opposite. Agreed, he didn't particularly seem to like
Brokeback Mountain, and he found the
character of Jack unsympathetic. But his negative response
to a particular character is not "defamation" and had
nothing to do with the sexual orientation of the
character. The interpretation-generalization of this
as "homophobic" is unfortunate and incorrect. It is
precisely because my Dad is not homophobic that he
felt free to criticize the movie as he saw it, and not
anticipate that he would be accused of homophobia for doing
so.

(Incidentally, I
loved the movie—and it sure isn't the first time I
have disagreed with my dad about one of his reviews. I
was sorry he didn't like it, but hey, these things
happen. I have always felt that he was entitled to his
opinion and I leave it at that.)

When I first saw
your press release a few days ago my reaction was
"goodness, this is silly" and I decided to sit tight and
hope it would blow over. But it hasn't, judging by the
e-mails I have received from friends, and the buzz I
have seen online. People are concerned about these
accusations about my dad, and some bloggers are talking
about him as if he is an enemy of gay people. I
decided to contact you because there could have been
better ways to handle this situation, and I am hurt by
your mischaracterization of my father, a man who does not
have a molecule of hate in his being. It does not
speak well for GLAAD, and it is not helping our
community.

We are all really
on the same side—you, my Dad, me, my family, our
community. The gay community has enough enemies that we
should not be attacking or alienating those who, such
as my Dad, are part of our family and are our true
friends. We may disagree with his opinion of a movie and
his interpretation of a particular character, but that is
his job as a critic to give his opinion. He may have
had an unpopular opinion of a movie that is important
to the gay community, but he defamed no one, and he is
not a homophobe. It is you who have defamed a good man, by
falsely accusing him of a repellent form of bigotry.
It is ironic and sad that an organization whose
mission is to combat defamation has committed such an
act itself, an act which amounts to character assassination
with so little consideration of the repercussions.

I am happy to
discuss this further with you by e-mail, or you can feel
free to phone me...

Sincerely, Peter
Shalit

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