The History of Lesbianism

Origin of the Term Lesbian

The word lesbian was first mentioned in ancient Greece. There was female poet—a Greek—who wrote many romantic poems to both men and women. This poet was known as Sappho. Because of her love poems addressed to both genders, she is historically known as the first example of a bisexual.

There are two words which are derivatives from this story. The first is Sapphic, which refers to a lesbian or lesbianism. Clearly, the word Sapphic was derived from Sappho's name. The second word is derived from the name of the island Lesbos, the birthplace of Sappho. The island of Lesbos is where the term lesbianism or lesbian was coined.

Although there is limited evidence of female homosexuality in ancient Greece, the story of Sappho still prevails as the earliest recorded history of lesbianism. Scholars say that written texts in ancient Greece rarely touched the subject. And yet this little evidence suggests that homosexual relationships did exist at the time.

Apart from Sappho, there is another person who wrote about female homosexuality in Greek literature. This person's name is Alcman. Alcman wrote songs about the attraction between two young women. Although many scholars will agree that her writings are ambiguous, many academics say that the attraction Alcman referred to was sexual in nature. Thus, it can be widely agreed upon that Greece has the earliest recorded history of lesbianism.

Historic Legality of Female Homosexuality

Same sex relationships were viewed differently by each culture all throughout history. The relationships were also regarded in different lights. Many cultures frowned upon it but there are some that tolerated it. Each culture also had a different standard or social norm when it comes to homosexual relationships. In Israel, the Jews heavily forbid both males in a romantic relationship. Lesbianism, however, is tolerated.

Although lesbianism was never illegal, same sex marriage was still forbidden. It is only in the late 20th century that homosexuality was decriminalized in many countries. In the UK, people started a campaign in the 1950s to make the government treat homosexuals with the same fairness as heterosexuals. It was a movement that helped change how gays were treated. Later on, in 1967, the law was changed to allow gays to be in a relationship. Prior to this, gay men who were in a relationship were arrested.

Political Considerations and Same Sex Relations

In many cultures, gay relationships were typically ignored, regardless if the parties involved are males or both females. However, this resulted to some political dilemma especially during wars. In a war, the state needs fighters. And this need can be sustained by getting men.

The problem with same sex relationships is that it contributes to a lower birth rate. With lower birth rates, there is little that a state can expect of its society to produce able bodied soldiers. In ancient Greece, homosexual relationships were ignored provided that the parties involved bore children.

Famous Lesbians in History

History is never short of women who were openly gay. In fact, there are even mythological characters who were explicitly lesbians. But here, we will only provide you a list of popular lesbians in history and in show business.