When is a Lesbian not a Lesbian?
Helen G // 23 July 2008
A couple of months ago, three islanders took gay rights group OLKE, the Homosexual and Lesbian Community of Greece, to court to get a ban on anyone except islanders and their descendants using the term Lesbian. The issue was about 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? (BBC).
Well, now a court in Athens has decided: there is no justification for the islanders’ contention that they felt slighted, because the word does not define their identity.
The man spearheading the case, publisher Dimitris Lambrou, had claimed that international dominance of the word in its sexual context violated the human rights of the islanders – who call themselves Lesbians – and disgraces them around the world.
He argued it caused daily problems to the social life of Lesbos’s inhabitants.
Andrea Gilbert, spokesperson for Athens Pride 2008 and a member of OLKE, drew attention to the amount of money from tourism that lesbians bring to the island when visiting Eressos, the birthplace of Sappho.
“The claim is based in serious prejudice and hatred, a ridiculous claim that most Greeks find laughable”, she said, “However, the underlying homophobia and reactionary sentiment is no laughing matter.”
The court ruled that the islanders do not have sole claim to the word and ordered the plaintiffs to pay court expenses of 230 euros (about £180) – although they can appeal against the decision.