Don't Ask, Don't Tell and the Chain of Command:
getting it right in "Stargate SG-1" fanfiction
by Janis Cortese
"Stargate SG-1," as well as being an excellent fandom to work in, introduces
a lot of concepts on which fan writers need to be informed in order to
write well in that universe. The most significant complications in the
SG-1 universe for character development (and fucking :-)) generally revolve
around the military setting of the show. I'm talking of course about the
infamous "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy of the military toward homosexuality
in its ranks and issues surrounding relationships within the chain of
command -- both of which are routinely severely misunderstood by fan writers.
Typically, slashers overextend the domain of DADT, and shippers
underestimate the significance of the CoC.
I'll treat DADT first, and then move onto the CoC.
Misunderstanding #1: DADT hasn't got a damned thing
to do with Daniel Jackson. He's a civilian. He can fuck whomever he wants.
He is under absolutely no requirements to comply with DADT or conceal
his sexuality in any way. Oh, I'm not saying that there wouldn't be social
hell to pay if he were to skip through the corridors of Cheyenne Montain
wearing a t-shirt that said "I Can't Even Think Straight" and a string
of pearls. He could play it close to the vest, certainly. But they
can't fire him. Nor would they, for the following reasons.
Reason 1: He doesn't work for the Air Force. He works
for the United States Government with the USAF, but his paycheck
is not drawn on the same account that his friends' checks are. Literally,
he doesn't work for the same people. And not only does the US Government
not have DADT, but they have anti-discriminatory hiring regulations in
place that explicitly forbid firing or refusing to hire someone because
of sexual orientation. Not only can Daniel not lose his job for being
queer, but if they did try to fire him, he could sue.
Reason 2: He has a security clearance. If a facility
like the SGC were to exist in reality, perhaps 2 or 3 people in the
world would be both qualified and cleared to do Daniel's job. They
are simply not going to fire him for being queer. They can't. There is
no one to replace him. And being queer is no impediment to obtaining a
clearance; being a closeted queer is, but one phone call to mom can clear
that up, and besides, queerness doesn't cause anyone to betray their country.
There is only one thing that has ever gotten people to do that -- money.
Reason 3: Hammond adores him. Don't underestimate this.
So does his team. A blockheaded armed forces officer who believes that
DADT is the best thing since sliced bread can be perfectly nice and accomodating
to a civilian queer. You'd be surprised. Perhaps a newbie airman fresh
from Lackland might try to give Daniel a hard time if he were queer, but
his team would descend on the hapless unfortunate like locusts. And on
a facility like that, there would be no newbie airmen. You wouldn't
get anywhere near the SGC, even to work in the kitchen, unless you'd been
evaluated six ways from zero and had enough experience and unique skills
to warrant their telling you about the place, and those evaluations include
psychological ones. There are no newbies at Cheyenne.
And again, Hammond is on his side. Do not underestimate the importance
of having the Big Cheese like you. No one will give Daniel a hard
time. No one.
Now, there is still the problem of Jack's livelihood in the world
of the Jack/Daniel slash that I write in quantity. But that is quite literally
Jack's problem, and not Daniel's. DADT hasn't a damned thing to do with
Daniel Jackson, excepting his normal worries about how it might affect
Jack should he take up with him. (And while he wouldn't be fired for simply
being queer, if it were discovered that he had sleeping with an
officer, his position would be considerably more tenuous.)
Misunderstanding #2: Now for the morass of romantic
entanglements within the chain of command. It is vitally important to
realize that even two men or two women who are prepared to flout DADT
will not generally date within the same chain of command.
Two officers in the armed forces can date and screw like minks if they
so desire. People meet and marry at work all the time, and the armed forces
are no different. What they do not do is date within their respective
chain of command. Carter may date any other Colonel she wants, but
not one with whom she works daily and who is responsible for giving her
orders on a routine basis. If Jack were in another facility, fine. But
as her direct CO? Absolutely not. And Jack can't date downwards. (This
has the added effect of making any same-sex stuff between Jack and Daniel,
while not quite covered by CoC issues since Daniel is a civilian, nonetheless
a thorny issue since Jack is his de facto boss and would be conscious
People do get together in the armed forces. Yes, it does happen. And
sometimes they get together when they shouldn't. The heart is not only
a lonely hunter, but in many instances a damned fool, and people can do
stupid things. But while that might fly for two nobodies at Dover, it
isn't going to happen at the SGC. These are both people who bleed camo,
career Air Force types who have an absolutely plum assignment at a facility
that perhaps 10 people in the world would be fully informed on. There
is no way in hell they would risk that, no matter how great the guy's
ass was. No, Sam and Jack cannot and more to the point would
not lay a hand on one another. If they were to fuck up, there are
many, many smart and qualified people who would be itching to knock them
aside and take their place. No, there is no possibility of a relationship
It's also important to realize that, while there are many excellent
armed forces around the world who do not have the proscriptions against
homosexuality that ours do, there are none that permit romantic
involvement within the chain of command. Absolutely none. Again,
even two men or two women who are prepared to take their chances with
DADT will not date within the same chain of command. The end result is
that no pairing in the SG-1 team that features Jack is permissible
in any way. It's also important to remember that while transgressing DADT
would result in a discharge, as far as I know, having sex within the CoC
results in a courtmartial.
Is this a problem? Shit, yeah. That's what fanfic is for. Who
cares if Jack is out of action until he retires? Does this stop us from
writing? No. Not me, anyhow.
We're all fantasizing. Every last one of us, shippers and slashers
equally (yes, you read that right -- neither one is more or less
legitimate or possible than the other). Everything I've written here is
fantasy. "Awaken to Reality" is no more implausible than "Actaeon." Sometimes
that implausibility gets in the way of a good story, sometimes the tension
from it (as with "Animal Husbandry") creates the story. But don't try
to rationalize. What we do is in the margins, every last one of us, shippers
and slashers alike. Daniel need not fear getting beaten up in the showers,
Sam and Jack will not consummate any interest they have for one
another, and until he retires, Jack ain't gonna lay a hand on either of
After he retires, though ... Well, this is one ficcer who envisions
all four of them -- Teal'c included -- living in polyamorous bliss, with
a little sprinkling of Fraiser on the side.