Shane Bitney Crone is the subject and producer of the touching documentary Bridegroom, which recalls the tragic, unexpected death of Shane's partner Tom Bridegroom and the subsequent discrimination Shane faced from Tom's family afterward. On the one-year anniversary of Tom's death, Shane posted a YouTube video "It Could Happen to You" about their relationship and the aftermath of Tom's death which went viral with over 4 million views. It also grabbed the attention of Designing Women writer/director/producer Linda Bloodworth-Thomason, who went on to direct the documentary.
Shane spoke with us about Bridegroom and the journey he has been on for the past year and a half as the documentary's TV premiere draws near (this Sunday, October 27 on OWN: Oprah Winfrey Network, 10:00pm EST). The film will be available on Netflix same day. See what Shane had to say below and check out our interview with Bridegroom director Linda Bloodworth-Thomason here.
GLAAD: Millions of people learned about your story when you posted a video on YouTube on the anniversary of Tom's passing. Why did you first decide to tell your story this way and what was your reaction when you realized how many people were paying attention?
Shane Bitney Crone: In a way, the video made itself. After grieving for a year, almost silently, I decided to make a YouTube video to honor Tom and to bring awareness to what I went through as a result. I wanted people to see how innocent our love was, and how terrible it is to deny people that love, and the rights that should come along with it. I hoped that even just one couple, gay or straight, would watch the video and make the necessary arrangements to avoid a similar fate. I was terrified of what people would think of the video--not only because it broadcasted to the world that I was gay and had been in love, but I used a lot of private footage. I was embarrassed, terrified, exposed. But it was all worth it. The actual results exceeded all of my expectations.
GLAAD: How did that lead to your taking part in a documentary about your experience and your relationship with Tom?
SBC: Shortly after the video went viral, writer/director and creator of Designing Women, Linda Bloodworth-Thomason saw it and called me to come into her office. She convinced me that this was a story that needed to be told and she explained to me that film has the power to create change and reach people in unimaginable ways. I envisioned the film as a testament to Tom and the love that we shared. I also felt like Linda was the perfect person to tell our story, as she herself has experienced the hate and discrimination that hundreds of thousands of gay men have experienced. Her mother was a victim of transfused AIDS and experienced the stigma first hand.
GLAAD: Bridegroom premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival earlier this year where it won the Audience Award and has played many other festivals since then. So many people are moved by it. What has the experience of seeing all these new audiences watch and react to the film been like?
SBC: I am incredibly proud of the film and so grateful we were accepted into the Tribeca Film Festival. We couldn't believe that we received the audience award, it was a tremendous honor. It's pretty remarkable attending so many different film festivals and seeing how the film is resonating with everyone who sees it in such a powerful way...in a way I never could've imagined.
GLAAD: Has there been one story that has stood out to you from someone who viewed the documentary?
SBC: I met a man in Atlanta who lost the love of his life about 10 years ago. His partner's parents banned him from attending the funeral and took the body to another state and to this day this gentleman doesn't know where the love of his life is laid to rest. It's absolutely heartbreaking and experiences like this shouldn't happen, to anyone.
GLAAD: The film opened in theaters recently and will premiere on OWN: Oprah Winfrey Network on Sunday, October 27. What do you hope audiences take away from seeing Bridegroom?
SBC: Whether you are gay or straight, I hope you will see this movie, and appreciate that Tom and I were just two boys who fell in love. Nothing more, nothing less. It is not a film about revenge, or making people feel sorry for me--it’s simply another love story. I think it will inspire people to live their lives honestly, to fall in love deeply, and to fight for the rights of people who are being treated like second class citizens. Love is love. Loss is loss. At the end of the day we are all human and we all just want to be happy and treated equally. I want people to see that Tom and I loved each other very much, but because we weren't married, his family and the government treated me as if I was merely his roommate.
GLAAD: What is next for you and Bridegroom?
SBC: Before Tom passed away, I never considered myself an activist. I always thought the word was very intimidating and how was little old me supposed to change the world? After Tom died, I struggled to find reasons to live. I had incredibly supportive family and friends, but none of my daily activities seemed to matter anymore. Now I have learned that by sharing my story, I can help others prevent the same thing from happening. By fighting for marriage equality, others will eventually have the legal protection that Tom and I did not. I can be a face for the struggle, a voice for those screaming for equal rights. I owe it to all of the Shanes and Toms of the world to put myself out there and to stand up for equality.
GLAAD: You’ve served as a GLAAD Spirit Day ambassador, walked with us in Pride parades, and attended the GLAAD Media Awards. GLAAD was also proud to help promote your Kickstarter campaign to fund Bridegroom. How have you enjoyed working with GLAAD? Why do you think the organization is important today?
SBC: I will forever be grateful to GLAAD. They have been there for me throughout this new chapter of my life and have continuously provided me with a support system when I've needed it the most. I believe in GLAAD and I have seen how their work has changed lives and saved lives. It's so important that the LGBT community is represented fairly and accurately in the media and GLAAD helps make sure that happens. GLAAD believes in the power of personal stories and know that it's our stories that will open people's hearts and minds and I'm so grateful to them for helping me share my story.
Bridegroom premieres this Sunday, October 27 on OWN: Oprah Winfrey Network at 10:00pm EST. If you're in the Chicago area, you can join Shane at a special Bridegroom screening and Q&A at Wrigley Field at 5:30pm. Chairs of the event include Laura Ricketts (Chicago Cubs co-owner), Brooke Skinner (GLAAD Chicago Leadership Council), Mark Pino (Harpo Productions/OWN) and Jeremy Gottschalk. Tickets are available now.