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Peter Shalit
writes to GLAAD about his dad

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.

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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