I spent the summer of 2008 doing an internship in Mexico. I'd get home from work very tired just wanting to veg out and watch TV. Unfortunately, there wasn’t a lot on Mexican TV that I was interested in watching. I started watching CNN in English, but that got boring so I switched to watching the Disney Channel in Spanish. Hannah Montana was on right when I got home every day and I got hooked pretty fast. I thought it was hilarious. I should mention, however, that when I got back to the US I watched an episode in English and I didn’t care for it. But it’s very entertaining in Spanish.
I was Skyping with Craig one day and I mentioned that I’d been watching Hannah Montana and we also said something about my being gay. At this point in my life I hadn’t gotten used to calling myself gay so whenever Craig and I talked about it we’d usually say things like “my issue” or “you know what” which was really imprecise. It was also kind of annoying that we couldn’t just call it what it was. At the time I had been trying to come up with a good code word for being gay. I didn’t want everyone to know that I was watching a show for preteen girls so after telling Craig how much I loved Hannah Montana I said, “Oh, and don’t tell anyone about Hannah Montana.” At that moment the perfect code word was born.
After that conversation “Hannah Montana” became the code work for being gay. For those of you not familiar with the show, Miley is a regular brunette teenage girl who also happens to be rock star known by the pseudonym Hannah Montana. When she performs she puts on a blonde wig so no one will recognize her. Even though she’s super-famous only her family and close friends know that she is Hannah Montana so that she can have a normal teenage life. Just like Miley, I had a super-awesome secret that only my close friends and family knew about.
For years, whenever I’d come out to people I’d end the conversation by explaining that the code word for my being gay was Hannah Montana. That was usually met with a puzzled look and then a full embracing of my made up term.
|"Ben, you're looking very Hannah Montana." -Sarah|
In my defense, the speaker was really low and I
had to bend down to place my order at Sonic.
Let me explain how to use it appropriately. You never say that someone has Hannah Montana so it would be incorrect to say, “I have Hannah Montana.” But it also isn’t simply a substitute for the word “gay.” For example, instead of saying that I had come out to someone, I’d tell my friends, “I told so-and-so about Hannah Montana.” The uses of the code word have expanded throughout the years. Sarah often uses it to let me know that I’m doing something that seems overly gay. For example, if I’m talking too excitedly about a musical she might say, “Ben, your Hannah Montana is showing,” or “You’re being so Hannah Montana right now.”
It’s been a real blast having a code word that only my close friends know about. It allowed us to bring up that I’m gay in the presence of others without giving away the secret. And if anyone ever brought up the real show my friends and I would give each other furtive glances and giggle to ourselves. The success of this code word led to the spontaneous invention of a few others like “baking a pie” for making out and “having mono” for being pregnant and "IBS" for something that is still a secret (and it's not my secret so you won't have to read a blog post about it).
Over the last year I've almost entirely stopped saying Hannah Montana because so many people know that I'm gay that there hasn't been a need to hide it with a code word. It has slowly been drifting out of our collective lexicon. After publishing my first coming out post I got an email from my friend Joleen. She jokingly wrote, “I'm disappointed. Now I'm not a special friend who knows your secret.” Joleen is one of my most special friends, but now that I've let everyone in on the secret, knowing the secret no longer binds us together in the same way that a good clique should. It's a bummer, but we don't need secret code words be to awesome friends. I was talking with Kevin and Allison and Sunday and Allison worriedly asked, “So, are we not going to say Hannah Montana anymore?” Of course you can still use the term Hannah Montana, there’s just no longer a need.
For my 25th birthday Craig and Heidi bought me a singing Hannah Montana pen. Not only do I have friends that I can trust with secrets, but they also tease me about it in clever ways. I think I'd agree with Hannah Montana--I get the best of both worlds.