Keshet is a national organization that works for LGBTQ equality in Jewish life. The organization equips Jewish leaders with tools to build LGBTQ-affirming communities, creates spaces for queer Jewish teens to feel valued and develop their own leadership skills, and mobilizes the Jewish community to fight for LGBTQ justice. Keshet’s blog spotlights this work, as well as the voices of LGBTQ Jews, our families, and allies.
This month, in honor of Valentine’s Day, Keshet is sharing love stories. Last week we heard from Aden and Josh, and the details of their proposal while marching at Pride with Keshet. We also heard from Lee in his piece “On Love and Parenthood.” Today we are sharing Jamie’s story about finding someone who matched their Judaism and their sexuality. If you have a love story for the Keshet blog, let us know! Celebrate all kinds of love with our queer Jewish Valentines!
I kissed my partner for the first time on Memorial Drive, with the Charles River and the nighttime Boston skyline sparkling in the background. Leaving aside the catcalls from a passing cyclist, it was a picture-perfect romantic moment. But more remarkable to me than the romance was the fact that I was kissing a man I had known for only two weeks—and I wanted to be kissing him. For me, this was completely unprecedented.
I identify as demisexual, which is a sexual orientation on the asexual spectrum. My default state is asexual, meaning that in general I’m not sexually attracted to anyone. But every so often, once I’ve formed a strong romantic and emotional connection with someone, I find myself becoming sexually attracted to that person. It doesn’t happen every time I’m romantically interested in someone. But if it does happen, it’s as if I become sexual only toward that person. I’m still not sexually attracted to anyone else.
This tends to make dating complicated, especially in the earliest stages of a relationship. Because I need to build an emotional connection with someone before I can be sexually attracted to them, it takes a long time before I can be physically intimate with a new person in any sense—even kissing. I’ve had to figure out how to communicate to new partners that I can’t be sexually intimate with them at first, without scaring them into believing that I’ll never want to have sex with them. It’s possible that I won’t, but it’s also possible that I will.
Put my demisexuality together with my unusual Jewish identity—observant, but most comfortable in pluralistic Jewish spaces—and you’ll see why, for a long time, I worried that I’d never find someone who was a match for me. Even when I found someone willing to wait around while I sorted out whether I had sexual feelings for them, we would often end up hitting a wall when it came to Jewish practice. They wouldn’t feel comfortable in my Jewish communities, or they would be unwilling to adopt my observant lifestyle.
My current partner was different. We went on six dates in the first two weeks we knew each other, and by the fifth date I knew I wanted to kiss him. This baffled me—I had never wanted to kiss someone I’d known for such a short time. I couldn’t tell if I was falling for him really quickly, or if he was somehow the exception to everything I’d previously known about myself. All I knew was that kissing him by the river that evening felt right.
I quickly realized that my partner hadn’t been the exception, after all. I had simply fallen in love with him, and become sexually attracted to him, faster than anyone I’d known before. I remain demisexual, and my partner is completely okay with that. He respects my identity, and is willing to put up with my somewhat quirky brand of sexuality. And we’ve turned out to be Jewishly compatible as well. In short, things are going great with my partner and me.
One thing still nags at me. Although Judaism and demisexuality are both central to my identity and to my romantic life, I experience them as almost entirely separate from each other. Judaism, as far as I know, is completely silent on the subject of asexuality. And so I don’t know where I fit into the Jewish tradition as a demisexual person. I’m still searching for a way to unite these two crucial aspects of who I am.
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