Greek islanders challenge lesbians over name

When is a Lesbian not a lesbian? A Greek court is grappling with the question after residents of the island of Lesbos accused gay women of monopolising the term.


“My mother, my daughter, my sister are ashamed to call themselves Lesbian, meaning residents of Lesbos,” Yiannis Achlopitas, a Greek living in the Canadian city of Montreal, told the court.

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VIDEO: Lesbos residents' court challenge

“Our women abroad are forced into hiding… this confusion which is offensive to our place of origin is on the internet, in newspapers, everywhere, you can't imagine the defamation in the United States, Canada, Australia,” he said.

Three residents of the Aegean Sea island filed a complaint in April, calling on the Greek Gay and Lesbian Community (OLKE), the country's main homosexual association, to drop the term.

Often referred to in Greece as Mytilene – the name of Lesbos' capital – the island was the home of the poet Sappho, who expressed her love of other women in lyric verses written in the early sixth century BC.

Popular tourist destination

Many locals are rankled by the fact that the resort of Eressos is a popular tourist destination for lesbians.

Among the plaintiffs is the editor of a neo-pagan magazine, Dimitris Lambrou, who demanded today that media worldwide stop using the term to define gay women.

“Hi, my name is Paul and I'm a lesbian,” read a banner carried by another member of the Greek diaspora who came to support the islanders' cause.

OLKE's lawyer Themistoklis Kefalas, himself a Lesbos resident, countered that his own daughter never had a problem with the name.

“The term has been in use at least since the eighteenth century,” he noted.

The court is expected to hand down its decision in about a month.