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February 09, 1989 - Image 5

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Publication:
The Michigan Daily, 1989-02-09

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PERSPECTIVES

The Michigan Daily Thursday, February 9, 1989 Page 5

Sappho's society offered
something today's doesn't

BY KRISTEN HOFFMAN
The Greek poet Sappho lived over
two thousand years ago, and all that
remains of her work are fragments
,and a few complete poems. Al-
though the average reader may not be
familiar with Sappho's name, or her
work, the name Lesbos may ring
some kind of bell, or alarm, as the
case may be.
The word "lesbian" literally
means "woman from Lesbos", and
thus derives from the name of Sap-
S.pho's ancient home, Lesbos.
Sappho was a lesbian who wrote
moving and beautiful poetry about
the deep love and desire she felt for
women. She wrote about love af-
fairs, broken hearts, sorrow, joy.
Sappho wrote about life and love be-
tween women.
By this time, the average reader
may be wondering why the average
reporter is so interested in the love
poems of a lesbian that were written
over two thousand years ago.
The reason is simple: Sappho
lived in a society that scholars and
students speculate was accepting of
lesbianism and homosexuality be-

tween men.
In the case of men, the evidence
is unquestioned. Older men had af-
fairs with men in, their teens. The
relationship was sexual, and the
older partner was meant to be a
mentor passing on wisdom.
In the case of women, Sappho's
poetry is the only evidence that re-
mains to verify the acceptance of
lesbian relationships.
Because of the overwhelming
evidence in the case of men, and the
poems of Sappho, it appears that
lesbian relationships were also an ac-
cepted aspect in the lives of ancient
Greeks.
Women and women. Men and
men. Sharing their lives, their love.
It's almost a dream world, imagining
a society that was the opposite of
mine.
Imagine a society that does not
hate lesbians and gay men. Imagine
a society that does not say that love
between two women or two men is
"evil," "sinful," "unnatural," "sick,"
or "perverted." Living in today's
American society, it is a pretty hard
thing to imagine as a reality.
Reading Sappho's poetry gives
me a certain amount of inspiration

and hope. There was a time and a
place where homosexual relation-
ships were simply a part of life, not
a shameful occurrence that results in
violence, hate, discrimination, and
emotional pain.
It happened once, it could happen
again.
Hating a woman or a man be-
cause that person has sexual rela-
tions with a member of their same
sex is not an attitude people are born
with.
Some people believe that lesbians
and gay men choose to be gay. Any
person who investigated the question
would find this false.
Homosexuality is not a choice. It
is a part of a person that cannot be
altered or changed, just like blue
eyes and brown hair will always be
blue and brown.
Some people grow up knowing
they are gay. From their earliest
memories, physical attraction has
been toward members of the same
sex.
Other people go through a real-
ization process. A certain vague
feeling of uneasiness may be at the
back of someone's mind, a sense of
confusion and questioning.

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This confusion and questioning
can culminate in the realization that
the person is attracted to members of
the same sex. Their feelings have
been repressed. We are socialized to
believe that heterosexuality is the
only natural and good way to live.
Discovering that heterosexuality
is not satisfying and homosexuality
would be the fulfilling way to live
can be a shock. The process can re-
sult in a sense of liberation and free-

dom, but can also bring depression,
fear, and shame.
These are only a few emotions
that can result from this process of
realization. Every individual has
their own experience.
In Sappho's society, homosexual
desires were not questioned. These
desires were natural, normal, a part
of life. To live in a society such as
this would mean freedom.
Whether a person knows from

childhood, or realizes later on in life,
homosexuality is not a conscious
choice. People do, however, choose
to hate, choose to discriminate.
The choice is ours. We can
choose to strive for a society like
Sappho's, a society that lets indiv-
iduals live as they wish. Or we can
continue with a society of hate and
violence, one that sits in judgement
on the natural desires of adult
women and men.

Anan Arbor Dearborn Flint
GETRIEADY~
l tissue c
Magazin e f E
T'hree U of M
Coming,.

Ann Arbor Dearborn Flint

I Cornerstone

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Announcing a 2-day "Rush-ia" for the
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