It became the quirky story du jour when Dimitris Lambrou from the isle of Lesbos decided to take a Greek gay rights group to court over its use of the word lesbian. But to the ABC’s Helen Vatsikopoulos, there was more to the story, leading her to Greece with the question just what was this guy thinking?

In 1924 the word lesbian entered the Oxford Dictionary in reference to gay women, who had adopted the title out of respect for the ancient Lesbos poetess Sappho and her odes to love between women.

But in April this year, this definition came under threat as Lambrou told a Greek court that such use of the word undermined his native rights.

People worldwide sniggered but Vastikopoulos said Lambrou isn’t joking and the matter is causing a rift in Greece.

When I first met him [Lambrou] I was half-expecting a nutter, but he actually came across as quite an intelligent person.

He [Lambrou] said he was all for homosexual rights and quite happy for lesbians to get married and have their rights and come to Lesbos for their holidays. He says that’s not what it’s about, it’s about identity and his human right to have his identity kept for him and not stolen, Vatsikopoulos recalled.

To the lesbians of Greece and worldwide, the matter cannot be separated from the issue of homophobia.

People from the homosexual and lesbian community of Greece say that it’s homophobia and it’s lesbophobia, Vatsikopoulos said.

It’s because this word now has a sexual orientation. If Lesbians were engineers then he wouldn’t be up in arms.

Vatsikopoulos said, based on her interactions with the locals of Lesbos, the split is 50-50 in agreement with Lambrou.

A lot of heterosexual women admitted that it could be embarrassing when they travelled and a lot of them have even stopped saying that they’re a Lesbian, she said.

A lot of them say that they are Mytilene, which is the capital of the island. So they say they’ve been forced to take on the identity of the capital. But then there were others who just said, what is this idiot? A complete nutter?

Lambrou is serious and following his failure in an Athens court has vowed to take the matter all the way to the European Court of Human rights if need be.

info: The issue is explored in Vatsikopoulos’ Foreign Correspondent story, Lesbian Wars, which will air on Tuesday, November 11, 9.30pm on ABC1.

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