|Author: Michaela Baldo
Department: Translation Studies
Institution: The University of Manchester
Title: Imagining a Mythical Island: Lesbian Tourism in Lesbos
Over the last decade, essays or collection of essays have appeared with the aim of investigating tourism industry marketing, tourist practices, and consumption patterns of queer subjects, focusing mainly on the advertising trends, but also more recently on the disruption of the heterosexual space through visible and mobile homosexuality (Puar, Jasbir Kaur 2002: 102).
Drawing partly on the article by Venetia Kantsia in the collection of essays by Jasbir Kaur Puar (2002), this paper aims at understanding the role of imaginary in the construction of the island of Lesbos, and specifically of the municipality of Eresos, as a tourist destination for hundreds of lesbians around the world. A place which is both portrayed as a tiny and cozy Greek fishermen village in tourist guides and brochures published by locals, and as an exotic lesbian spot in foreign websites, since it is considered the birthplace of the lesbian ancient poet Sappho (Kantsia 2002: :35-36).
This paper focuses on the construction of the imaginary of the island by the women who visited this place as holidaymakers in the last years, and who identify themselves as either lesbians or bisexuals. It draws on the answers to a few questions distributed to them in the form of a questionnaire, and in which these women were asked to think about what inspired them to visit the island for the first time and the reasons for keeping returning. The questionnaire aimed at outlining the different perceptions of Eresos before and after these women visited it for the first time, and the changes, stability and cultural persistence of their imaginary about the island over time, a persistence favored by a very strong and emotional attachment to the place perceived as almost mythical, and by the wider and wider use of social websites such as facebook.
Given the heterogeneity in terms of provenance of the women who compiled the questionnaire, we can talk of the intersection not only of queer sexualities and tourism but also queer sexuality and globalization. From the contact between a global and a local community of lesbians/bisexuals, a glocal imaginary is constructed every summer, which not only has an impact on the local space of the island but also affects the space inhabited by these women in their respective native countries. This paper, therefore, proves that the construction of a lesbian imaginary is strictly connected to the act of travelling, to the condition of being a tourist (also metaphorically), as many studies on queer migration/queer diaspora have started to affirm (Patton and Sanchez 2000; Luibheid, Eithne 2008).
Michela Baldo graduated at the University of Padova in Classics, Italian and Modern Greek in 2000 and has a Masters degree (2004) and PhD in Translation studies (Italian-Canadian writing 2009) from the University of Manchester. She is currently a teaching fellow in Translation at the University of Birmingham and works occasionally as a freelance translator.