This month we’ve got yet another case of somebody over on Tumblr trying to revive card suit sorting, plus even more people claiming it was only abandoned because of the anti-ace brigade. I’ve put this post together just to explain that, in actuality, this narrative is false. The call to get rid of that junk isn’t some hostile outsider perspective. The call is coming from inside the house.
In this post, you will find what I mean by “card suit sorting,” how it’s not quite fair to fellow aces, and how this connects back to larger problems of absolutist thinking within the ace community.
What is card suit sorting?
I’m using the term “card suit sorting” to refer to a specific practice of 1) assigning symbolism to aces 2) using certain card suits, on the basis of 3) divvying us up and sorting us by identity — usually romantic orientation. So aromantic aces, demiromantic aces, alloromantic aces, etc. are variously assigned the symbolism of hearts, clubs, diamonds, and spades. Note this is not the same thing as just using playing card symbolism in general. With card suit sorting, we’re talking about the more specific assigning of suit-based symbolism:
This isn’t how far back it goes, but I’ll get into more examples in a second.
In these two posts, you will notice people are attaching a certain narrative to its disappearance. The 2019 post includes an addition about things like this being “lost because of exclusionists.” The 2020 post has people claiming that “these terms were well known and widespread in the ace community,” that card suit symbols are “one of the things 90% of ace people used to put in their bio,” and that people stopped using them “because of exclusionists.” They’re also highlighting the year 2015 in particular, for some reason. Not sure what that’s about.
Much of these additions are detailing general recollections of anti-ace harassment, not necessarily related to card suit sorting itself. And generally? What they’re saying is true. It’s why I’ve been trying to encourage people to leave behind the contexts that make them vulnerable to exactly that. (There are parts I could quibble with, of course. That bit about “talk to any ace people — if you can find them”? Then you’re looking in the wrong place.)
As for why you don’t see card suit sorting as much anymore — or rather, where it came from and where it went — for that, we’re going to have to get into what makes card suit sorting unfair to other aces.
How is card suit sorting unfair?
Card suit sorting has typically been based on compulsory romantic orientation: the idea that every single ace has to identify with a romantic orientation. The prevalence of this expectation in the ace community is why we’ve had to come up with ways of talking about not finding that model personally useful. For example, this is why terms like “quoiromantic” exist. Just because many aces identify with a romantic orientation or find that framework useful doesn’t mean all of us do.
The existence of aces without romantic orientations is why card suit sorting has been subject to criticism within the community. For example, if you want to talk about 2015 as a significant year, then let’s talk about a certain fiasco called “Ace Day.” To understand how the criticism of card suit sorting actually played out, see this early response to this announcement and this later followup, as well as Sara’s apology post.
As for the playing cards, it was a suggestion made to me into which I should have placed more thought. I did not consider that the use of the cards could result in alienating members of the community who do not identify with a romantic orientation or whose orientation is more complex than the choices available. This again arose from my ignorance of many aspects of the community I am working to serve, and I am working on educating myself on these issues as well.
For all of these transgressions, I am genuinely sorry.–Sara, Ace Day Statement, June 14, 2015
If this notion were to finally die off and be forgotten, that would be a good thing, because it would be one less source of pressure on aces to pick a romantic orientation.
If you want to draw links to the anti-ace brigade, though, here’s one. Sorting aces by romantic orientation (and expecting all aces to be easily classified that way) is actually right in line with anti-ace traditions of splitting aces between the LGBT ones and the “cishets,” notably leaving little room for aces who challenge the LGBTQ/cishet binary. Any effort to divvy us all up by romantic orientation, as if that can ever be comprehensive, will be reminiscent of them to me in that way.
And if you want to talk about the actual impact of the 2015 anti-ace brigade — how about you talk about how even an ace & aro org is endorsing their language over ours?
Okay, but it’s all just for fun, right?
You might figure that this stuff is no big deal — it’s not like anybody takes it seriously… except that I have, in fact, seen people take it seriously enough to start condemning other aces for using the “wrong” symbol. In this case I’m not including a direct link because the person in question has apologized, and I respect that. I wish more people would respond to being corrected that way. This is just a reminder that you should never underestimate how little it takes for that kind of thing to happen.
As for neglecting to consider intracommunity conflicts and attributing the “loss” of card suit sorting to “exclusionists”:
This is another one of the things I meant about how the fixation on so-called “exclusionists” represents a problem. Not every single thing that’s changed in the ace community bears the mark of anti-ace aggressors. Sometimes those of us inside the community disagree with each other. Sometimes we fail each other. Sometimes we actually do make mistakes, and those mistakes are worth fixing, rather than dig in our heels and frame all criticism as a problem to be resisted.
I’m not an “exclusionist” for wanting card suit sorting to die. I’m quoiromantic, and I want people to knock it off because it means people even inside the community are neglecting to account for aces like me.