A Law Student's Attempt to Understand It All.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Lesbian on Lesbian Action Again

To update you on my previous post:

Reuters reports that a court in Athens has dismissed the plea by Lesbians (residents of the Greek island of Lesbos) to ban Lesbians (homosexual women) from using the term. Given the nature of hypersensitivity to the GLBT movement, this ruling does not surprise me in the least.

What bothers me is one particular line in the story:
In a July 18 decision, the Athens court said the word did not define the identity of the residents of the island, and so it could be validly used by gay groups in Greece and abroad.
This holding is patently false. The word's etymology derives from the name of the island and its inhabitants. To be "Lesbian" was originally the same as being an "American" or "English" or "French." When part of a hegemonic league (such as the Delian League), "Lesbian" was roughly equivalent to "Coloradoan" or maybe "Puerto Rican." That is the word has historically been understood to refer to the inhabitants of the island of Lesbos.

Where "lesbian" achieved its new definition comes from the ancient erotic poet Sappho whose works often featured female homosexual sex. While it is true that Sappho was from the seventh century, B.C., the term "lesbian" had a duel meaning through most of history. During that time, the term was very often, if not most often, understood to mean the inhabitants of Lesbos first and homosexual women only secondarily. It's like us referring to a "special" or "San Francisco" type male today. Does that mean the homosexual community should be able to steal the word "special" from our language? Or should a person be ashamed for being from San Francisco and thus associated with homosexuals? (Wait.. that has happened already...)

The case will almost certainly be appealed, for this is a matter of principle. Don't hold your breath for a different ruling because European courts recently have been going to great lengths to satisfy their GLBT communities.

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