The Island Who Lost Its Name
May 1, 2008

It's true, Virginia, there really IS a Lesbos.

Seriously. It's a Greek island just off the coast of Turkey, near Ayvalik (which was a Turkish city filled with Greeks until about 1922). Today, it's often referred to as Mytilini - which is actually just the name of the island's capital.

And, they want their name back. They do not wish to be residents of the isle of Mytilini (which sounds vaguely Italian anyway), they want to be ...


Wait, wait, wait. That came out wrong. ACK! Not "came out" like "came out of the closet" ... I mean, it didn't sound ...

Oh bollox.

It's simple. Waaaaaay back in the 7th century B.C., there was a woman named Sappho. She wrote poetry. Love poetry. Sappho lived on the Greek island of Lesbos. She wrote love poetry to women. Hence, Sappho was a Lesbian lesbian. Or was she a Mytilinian lesbian? Maybe she was bi, we just don't know. At any rate, somewhere along the line, instead of being accurate and calling women who write love poetry to other women Sapphians, which would have been more accurate, they called them lesbians. And then, of course, they attached the word to females who were attracted to other females, instead of being more precise and only referring to women who wrote poetry to women as Sa - I mean lesbians.

So it's quite obvious that the entire process of naming women who happen to be homosexual as lesbians has been very much botched from the beginning. Or at least since the 7th century B.C. Or, to be more precise, B.C.E. (before the common era).

At any rate, the people of the island sometimes called Lesbos and sometimes called Mytilini would actually like to be called Lesbians now. Never mind that there are plenty of people who would prefer to NOT be called a lesbian, these people would like their name back.

It's been badly misused by the media in the United States. All throughout the 1980s, any news story involving Sharon Gless using began in this way: A crazed lesbian broke into Gless' home or perhaps Gless has taken out a restraining order on the crazed lesbian who broke into.

And anyway, why bother to divide the gay community into "gay men" and "lesbians" anyway? Shouldn't the gay community try to band together and show their numbers instead of subdividing into minute special-interest groups? What if the civil rights movement of the '50s and '60s had subdivided into Africans, half blacks, quadroons, Baptists, Catholics, etc, etc, etc?

I say, let the island of Lesbos have their name back. I don't want it, anyway.

Now, if the Dutch start demanding "dyke" back, we're gonna have problems ...

You can read the BBC article here.

Posted by Red Monkey at May 1, 2008 8:46 AM | Never Underestimate the Power of Human Stupidity | People Say I Have ADHD, But I Think - Hey Look, A Chicken | | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble |


Red said:

I read an article about this today. To funny! Great post endy and I agree with you let them have their name back I don't want it Rock on my friend. :)

May 1, 2008 11:43 AM


Claire said:

I never even knew that Lesbos wasn't Lesbos any more.

May 1, 2008 5:44 PM


Maria said:


This whole thing is just mind boggling to me.

May 1, 2008 8:51 PM


Claire said:

/me whsitles

May 1, 2008 9:31 PM


Nola said:

I love a good post with a map!! :)

May 1, 2008 10:18 PM

That Dutch comment was the icing on the cake; sweet.

(Entering this twice in case you didn't get the first one; I didn't see the "Inhibit" thing, cuz i was too fast on the draw...)

May 2, 2008 7:51 AM


timethief said:

Thanks for the well researched and well written post. I was aware of this desire of the islanders of Lesbos to reclaim their islands name. Indeed it was my gay friends who asked me to use the term "gay" to apply to all members of that community years ago. And the use of the term "lesbian" is fading away here in Canada.

I believe this may in part be due to the fact that we actually listen to gay people here and because we a have a bright enough populace to insist that our government get the heck out of our bedrooms and broom closets. It took time but now we are the 4th country in the world where same sex adults can marry one another. What surprises and displeases me about America is how terribly afraid their are of opening their minds, cleansing the bigoted contents and following suit.

May 2, 2008 3:46 PM


Tara R. said:

A history lesson and an entertaining post... I love coming over here. I'm with NOLA, the map is fabulous.

May 3, 2008 8:30 PM


Kdawg68 said:

I somehow missed this when you first posted it. Hysterical, Ender! You had my sides hurting from laughing so hard.

May 6, 2008 7:39 PM

Gay would never work for all. Some of my sisters are simply too cranky to be called "gay."

July 23, 2008 2:48 PM
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