Thursday, May 1, 2008

Lesbians, Lesbos and Human Rights

The Isle of Lesbos. Its very name conjures up images of the lovely female descendents of the isle's most famous daughter, the poet Sappho, walking about under a Mediterranean sky in sparse cotton dress and, in the cool evening breezes, making love to their female paramours. At least that’s the way I always imagined it. I am sure the reality is a bit less ideal.

Sappho is known to history as the world’s first famous lesbian. Sappho’s prose, discussing her passion and desires for the fairer sex, is a treasure of history. So famous was she that the very name for women who desire sex with other women derives its name from Sappho’s abode, the isle of Lesbos. But today, in an insane act of political correctness, a case has been brought by a resident of the isle charging a Greek organization who use the term lesbian to refer to gay women as being guilty of a human rights violation.


Art: The Women of Amphissa, Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema, 1887

This from the BBC:

Campaigners on the Greek island of Lesbos are to go to court in an attempt to stop a gay rights organization from using the term "lesbian".

The islanders say that if they are successful they may then start to fight the word lesbian internationally.

The issue boils down to who has the right to call themselves Lesbians.

Is it gay women, or the 100,000 people living on Greece's third biggest island - plus another 250,000 expatriates who originate from Lesbos?

The man spearheading the case, publisher Dimitris Lambrou, claims that international dominance of the word in its sexual context violates the human rights of the islanders, and disgraces them around the world.

He says it causes daily problems to the social life of Lesbos's inhabitants.

In court papers, the plaintiffs allege that the Greek government is so embarrassed by the term Lesbian that it has been forced to rename the island after its capital, Mytilini.

An early court date has now been set for judges to decide whether to grant an injunction against the Homosexual and Lesbian Community of Greece and to order it to change its name.

A spokeswoman for the group has described the case as a groundless violation of freedom of expression, and has pledged to fight it. . . .

Read the entire article. This is a bit of insanity, really. The fact that Lesbos is so famous for being the home to Sappho ought to be an incredible draw to the gay and bisexual crowd. I don’t see why the islanders don't mine the economic potential by making the island a second home for the wealthy among them – sort of the feminine version of the Castro section.

And here is a bit of Sappho’s poetry from the poem, Please:

Come back to me, Gongyla, here tonight,
You, my rose, with your Lydian lyre.
There hovers forever around you delight:
A beauty desired.

Even your garment plunders my eyes.
I am enchanted: I who once
Complained to the Cyprus-born goddess,
Whom I now beseech

Never to let this lose me grace
But rather bring you back to me:
Amongst all mortal women the one
I most wish to see.

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