HOLLYWOOD -- An X rating unfairly stigmatizes director Philip Kaufman's upcoming film "Henry and June" as pornographic, a gay and lesbian media watchdog group is charging.

The Universal Pictures film is Kaufman's adaptation of poet-novelist Anais Nin's account of her love affair with writer Henry Miller and her obsession with Miller's wife, June. Among the material that is believed to have triggered the X rating from the Motion Picture Association of America's Classification & Ratings Administration are three intimate scenes between the two women.

In a letter to MPAA President Jack Valenti, the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation charges that the X rating has come to be associated in the minds of the public with pornography and most likely would not have been given to a film that featured comparable heterosexual scenes.

"Is there no room under the current rating system for realistic portrayals of physical intimacy between members of the same sex without the stigma of pornography?" the group asks in the letter.

Richard Jennings, executive director of the gay alliance's Los Angeles chapter, said Kaufman's movie is a prime candidate for the group's efforts to promote fair representations on the screen "since it is from a major film company and made by respected artists." Kaufman's most recent film was the critically praised "The Unbearable Lightness of Being."

Jennings said his organization is concerned that the MPAA rating board has "no reservations giving R {restricted audience} ratings to movies showing gays and lesbians being blown away by heroes in such movies as 'Last Exit to Brooklyn' and 'House Party,' " the latter of which, he said, contained an "anti-gay rap song."

"The message we get," Jennings added, "is that it is okay to show gays and lesbians getting killed, but if you show them as complete individuals who have physical intimacy, you get an X."

Valenti could not be reached for comment.

A spokesman for Universal said the studio plans to appeal the rating in early October. There is no release date set for the film, but it will have its premiere Friday at the Venice Film Festival in Italy.

The Universal spokesman said the studio will not release an X-rated movie to the public and is hoping its appeal will be successful. As a signatory member of the MPAA, the studio cannot release a film with anything other than an official MPAA rating.