The term “lesbian” comes from the name of the Greek island Sappho lived on around 570-600 B.C. named Lesbos. On this island, Sappho had a school where she taught and informed many women how to do different things of importance.
One of the things Sappho is most known for her is poetry; she was a very gifted writer whose poetry is incredibly revered and whose system for writing poetry is still in place. Interestingly, although people are aware that the origin of the word “lesbian” comes from Sappho and that she was a poet, what’s lesser known is that most of her poems were love poems dedicated to women. This bears much significance in that, in Sappho’s time in western civilization, a love poem had not been recorded yet. Sappho was therefore the first in western civilization to take her love for other women and translate it into something as beautiful and poignant as poetry.
What’s also so special about Sappho is that Plato revered her to the point of calling her the 10th muse; Plato admired Sappho’s contributions to civilization and acknowledged her significance.
With regard to LGBT history, it’s important for us to know the background of our community; it’s also important that the dominant culture knows and understands that many LGBT individuals have made a significant impact on western civilization, a fact that is not yet taught. Getting the information that LGBT people have shaped western civilization helps build self-esteem for the LGBT community; it allows us to know how much a part we’ve played in our own civilization’s creation and how our LGBT ancestors have helped.
Although many of Sappho’s poems are no longer around or accessible, some great ones are still out there. Here is a link to some of her poetry: