A Greek court has
been asked to draw the line between gay women and the
natives of the Aegean Sea island of Lesbos.
from Lesbos -- home of the ancient poet Sappho, who
praised love between women -- have taken a gay rights group
to court for using the word lesbian in its
One of the
plaintiffs said Wednesday that the name of the association,
Homosexual and Lesbian Community of Greece, ''insults the
identity'' of the people of Lesbos, who are also known
''My sister can't
say she is a Lesbian,'' said Dimitris Lambrou. ''Our
geographical designation has been usurped by certain ladies
who have no connection whatsoever with Lesbos,'' he
plaintiffs are seeking to have the group barred from using
''lesbian'' in its name and filed a lawsuit on April 10. The
other two plaintiffs are women.
A spokeswoman for
the Homosexual and Lesbian Community of Greece said the
action was ''a joke in bad taste that borders on
''I don't see how
the word can be an insult,'' Evangelia Vlami said. ''We
don't think doubt can be cast on dictionaries ... even the
United Nations refers to us as Lesbians.''
Mytilene, after its capital, Lesbos is famed as the
birthplace of Sappho. The island, particularly the lyric
poet's reputed home town of Eressos, is a favored
holiday destination for gay women.
''This is not an
aggressive act against gay women,'' Lambrou said. ''Let
them visit Lesbos and get married and whatever they like. We
just want [the group] to remove the word
lesbian from their title.''
He said the
plaintiffs targeted the group because it is the only
officially registered gay group in Greece to use the word
lesbian in its name. The case will be heard in
an Athens court on June 10.
Sappho lived from
the late seventh to the early sixth century B.C. and is
considered one of the greatest poets of antiquity. Many of
her poems, written in the first person and intended to
be accompanied by music, contain passionate references
to love for other women.
Lambrou said the
word lesbian has been linked with gay women only
in the past few decades. ''But we have been Lesbians for
thousands of years,'' said Lambrou, who publishes a
small magazine on ancient Greek religion and
technology that frequently criticizes the Christian Church.
Vlami, the gay
group spokeswoman, said any misunderstanding can easily be
resolved through linguistics.
from Lesbos prefer to use the word Mytilene, which is the
more ancient version and because some people may be afraid
of being misunderstood,'' she said. ''I don't see what
the problem is ... Can't a woman just say: I am from
the island of Lesbos?''
Very little is
known of Sappho's life. According to some ancient
accounts, she was an aristocrat who married a rich merchant
and had a daughter with him. One tradition says that
she killed herself by jumping off a cliff over an
unhappy love affair.
Sappho was not gay. ''But even if we assume she was, how can
250,000 people of Lesbian descent -- including women -- be
considered homosexual?'' (Nicholas Paphitis, AP)