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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 of this.)

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 between them.

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 them.

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.


Last modified Monday, 05-Nov-2001 10:30:29 PST