Some years ago, I was shocked to discover that JDate, the popular online “Jewish Singles Network,” did not have a search option for men seeking men or women seeking women. If you identified yourself as a woman, it automatically searched for a tall, dark and handsome man, when what you really wanted was a cute, smart woman. Beyond the absence of a gay or lesbian search option, this presumption of heterosexuality implied the absence of LGBT Jews. Watching the computer fill in a man when I wanted a woman, I felt the way I always feel when well-meaning strangers ask if I have a boyfriend. JDate’s presumption about my interests subtly, but powerfully, disregarded my very existence. What a virtual slap in the face! I immediately shot off an email to the organization in protest, but received nothing in response.
I like to imagine that my protest (along with many others, no doubt) planted a seed that grew into the recent JDate makeover, which permits a “man seeking man” or a “woman seeking woman” search as reported by the New York Times earlier this week in a piece called “A Dating Service Gives a Nod to Jewish Gays.” While the search engine is not as inclusive as it could be (for example, it still maintains binary gender options), it’s certainly a step in the right direction. Correcting the heterosexual bias of JDate is just a step toward correcting the same bias in the Jewish community at large, but it is an important step. I hope the change in JDate is a sign of changes to come. How about more rabbis officiating at gay weddings?