People of Lesbos Sue Gay Group Over Usage of the Term 'Lesbian'

Tom Hymes
LESBOS, Greece — After a couple hundred years, the people people of Lesbos are finally fighting back against what some believe is the inaccurate, unauthorized and impinging use of the word "lesbian."

According to the Associated Press, three citizens of the Greek island have filed suit against a gay rights group that uses the word in their name, asserting that its usage "insults the identity" of the people of Lesbos, who are also known as Lesbians.

"My sister can't say she is a Lesbian," plaintiff Dimitris Lambrou said. "Our geographical designation has been usurped by certain ladies who have no connection whatsoever with Lesbos," he said. The other two plaintiffs are women.

The suit asks the court to rule that the group, Homosexual and Lesbian Community of Greece, stop using the word in 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.

Most people take for granted the association of the term "lesbian" with Lesbos, where the Ancient Greek lyric poet Saphho, many of whose poems express infatuation and love for women, was born. The etymology of the term, however, officially dates back only to 1732, according to Wikipedia, and its first mention in the 1870 Oxford English Dictionary refers to sexual orientation rather than to either Sappho or the inhabitants of Lesbos.

Whatever the origins of the term, over the years the island of Lesbos has become a Mecca of sorts for gay women, who often visit the town of Eresos, Saphho's birthplace.

Lambrou insists the lawsuit does not seek to interfere with any of that.

"This is not an aggressive act against gay women," he 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."