Have you ever heard the term sapphic used to describe a woman and her relationship?
Maybe you’ve heard it to describe a specific genre of literature? If you’ve heard the term before or haven’t, I’m here to explain what it means.
Sapphic doesn’t explicitly refer to lesbians, but they are a part of the sapphic umbrella. Depending on who you speak to, sapphic can mean various things, but it mainly refers to how women love other women.
However, in recent years it’s evolved from going past this to being more inclusive of trans femmes and nonbinary folks. Being sapphic is not just about gender but an all-encompassing inclusion of queer love.
So, let’s go into a bit more detail about how the term sapphic came to be.
The Origins Of Sapphic
In order to help you understand what being sapphic means in a modern environment, it’s essential to know where the term originated. In this case, we’re going back to Ancient Greece.
The word sapphic is derived from the Greek goddess Sappho, who hailed from the Island of Lesbos.
Sappho was a poet who wrote “The Ode to Aphrodite,” in which she prays to Aphrodite to help her ease the pain of unrequited love for another woman.
Aphrodite is invoked and assures Sappho that her unrequited love will pursue her in time. At the poem’s conclusion, Sappho invokes the Goddess once more to help her with her romantic struggles.
Although classicists will argue about the poem’s tone, no one can argue that Sappho’s writing is about women who love other women and is written from her perspective.
Sappho’s work has been hugely inspirational, and since they were found in the late 1800s, sapphic has been a term used to describe women who preferred other women emotionally and sexually.
However, it wasn’t popularly used as that term until the 50s.
However, before we delve further into this, I should also mention a little fact about Sappho. While she wrote about her love for women, she also wrote about being attracted to men and was, therefore, bi or pan.
So it’s no surprise that being sapphic is more than just about women loving women.
Is Sapphic Another Way To Describe Being A Lesbian?
Many people view sapphic and lesbian as interchangeable due to the origins of each term. Due to sapphic originating from the Goddess, Sappho, and lesbian originating from the island of Lesbos.
However, that doesn’t mean all sapphics are lesbians or vice-versa.
Lesbians may refer to themselves as sapphic, but that doesn’t mean that all sapphics are lesbians. See, sapphic doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with your sexuality, nor that you have to be a cis woman to be sapphic.
When people misunderstand what sapphic is, they think that it means you have to be a lesbian to be sapphic, but neither of these terms is interchangeable with one another.
Instead, it’s better to think of being sapphic as an identity. Not everyone will identify as sapphic, regardless of gender or sexuality. Some trans women might not refer to themselves as sapphic, nor may a lesbian, a bisexual, or a pansexual.
Instead, sapphic is about identifying beyond the gender binary. Instead, being sapphic is more to do with queer love and anyone attracted to women.
The Sapphic Community
The sapphic community is known for being accepting and has been known to be inclusive of anyone queer who loves women.
Being sapphic doesn’t mean you have to be a woman, as you could be non-binary and still find yourself accepted in the community.
They even have their own flag, which consists of three stripes, two pink and one white. In the middle of the white stripe is a violet, or in some cases, a pair of violets.
Why a violet? Throughout history, women would be given a violet to show their sapphic love for one another.
In many cases, the sapphic community has become more popular for younger folks in the queer community to feel accepted. Due to the term’s use, sapphic can mean anyone attracted to women.
Some communities sometimes feel isolating for trans and non-binary folks, and because of that, the sapphic community feels like a haven away from transphobia.
Sapphic In Media
Considering Sappho was a poet and goddess, it is no surprise that sapphic is also used to define genres. Nowadays, if you look on Tik Tok and YouTube, there are so many people recommending sapphic media.
Sapphic has become much more prevalent when discussing books and films. In the past, any fiction involving women who loved women would only be referred to as lesbian media regardless of the characters’ sexualities.
Sapphic has shown how literature and film have become more inclusive.
However, some wonder why sapphic and lesbian literature needs to have a separate genre. One vocal critic of this has been Jeanette Winterson, who wrote Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit.
Sapphic literature is also held to a higher standard than other LGBT media.
There’s no doubt that LGBT media has become more mainstream in western countries. You can even find more sapphic and overall LGBT representation in video games.
While gaming was incredibly male-dominated in the past, queer characters have been getting more representation than ever before in not just indie games but mainstream games too.
Now that you’ve read this, you’ve undoubtedly got a better idea of how sapphic romance works. While historically, people may have confused being sapphic with lesbianism, the two have been distinct for some time.
Many younger queers prefer to use the term sapphic when talking about their orientations, and some older queers may do the same.
All of this is to make the community more gender-inclusive for non-binary and trans folk, who may not be welcomed in some parts of the lesbian community due to transphobia.
Knowing how to define sapphic gives you a better idea of what it means. When discussing identities and sexual orientations, it’s essential that you don’t assume you know their identity before they announce it.