Shane Bitney Crone Talks Love + Loss In ‘Bridegroom’ [Interview]

Photo: (bridegroommovie.com)

Photo: (bridegroommovie.com)

Movies can entertain, but they can also change your life. The documentary “Bridegroom” shows the touching, true love story of Tom Bridegroom and Shane Bitney Crone, including all the heartache that came when they were denied the same rights as other couples.

You see, when Tom was in an accident, Shane was not allowed to visit him in the hospital because he wasn’t considered family. Sadly, Tom passed away and Shane was told he couldn’t go to the funeral. Shane posted an emotional video on YouTube about what he was going through, and this eventually led to the documentary.

+ Watch the trailer For “Bridegroom.”

The doc has been playing in select theaters, and it will premiere on the Oprah Winfrey Network and be available through Netflix on October 27. You’ll also be able to buy it on Amazon or iTunes November 19. “It’s a film about showing people that, regardless of sexual orientation, love is love and loss is loss,” Shane said. To learn more about the movie and how you can stand up for LGBTQ rights, I interviewed Shane.

ACT: When did the idea for “Bridegroom” first come about?

SHANE: Ironically, my partner, Tom, and I met the director, Linda Bloodworth Thomason, at a friend’s wedding in 2008. That night we talked about how Tom and I hoped to get married someday. Fast- forward a few years. She saw the YouTube video and called me to meet with her in her office. She convinced me this was a story that needed to be told on a larger scale. This wasn’t just a Hollywood director wanting to make a film. This was a woman who’s known for using her voice to generate awareness. Her mom was a victim of transfused AIDS, so she witnessed firsthand a lot of the hate and discrimination a lot of gay men faced. I was honored she was the one to tell the story. I’m so grateful that something positive has come from something so tragic, and Tom’s death was not in vain.

ACT: What do you hope to accomplish with “Bridegroom”?

SHANE: Our main goal is to open people’s hearts and minds. I think there isn’t more powerful way to open people’s hearts and minds than by sharing personal stories.

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Photo: Tom and Shane traveling in Egypt. (bridegroommovie.com)

ACT: What has the response been so far? How did former President Bill Clinton and Adam Lambert get involved?

SHANE: I am incredibly grateful for the positive response, even going back to when I posted my YouTube video. I made the YouTube video to honor my partner, Tom, and to show people what happens when we don’t have access to the same rights. I posted the video on the anniversary of his death, and I never could’ve imagined it would spread the way it did and lead to making a documentary. We’ve had so much support from people all over the world, as well as two of the most influential leaders of our time, former President Bill Clinton and Oprah Winfrey.

The director, Linda Bloodworth Thomason, is good friends with President Clinton and Hilary. She sent him a copy of the film, and he was so moved by it he wanted to introduce it at the Tribeca Film Festival, which was an incredible honor.

About six months ago I was at a GLAAD event in San Francisco and I sat at the same table as Adam Lambert. We talked about the film and he asked what he could do to help. He wanted to contribute a song, and the song he’s allowing us to use is “Outlaws of Love,” and I feel it really fits well with the film. Adam to me is a hero in a lot of ways; he lives his life so proudly. Having utilized Kickstarter.com to fund the film, we felt that placing Adam’s song over the 6,508 backers’ names in the credits was the perfect place. Had it not been for the Kickstarter backers, there wouldn’t be a film. We like to call it the “people’s film.”

ACT: In regards to LGBTQ rights, what do you hope gets accomplished by next year?

SHANE: We have a long road ahead of us, but I hope within the next 12 months we will have marriage equality in at least another five to ten states. I hope “Bridegroom” can help us achieve that in some way.

ACT: Do you have any words of advice or encouragement for LGBTQ people living around people or places that are not accepting?

SHANE: Growing up, it really felt as if life was not going to get better, and I didn’t see how it could get better. Knowing that I was able to move away and I was able to live in a city where I could be myself, that helped a lot. Things did get better. For people who are struggling and living in these small towns, try to stay strong and trust that you’re not stuck there forever. Try to live proudly and not be ashamed. Surround yourself with good people and try to stay active and involved in activities that bring you joy.

I wish I had some simple answer, but it is really hard when you’re in these small conservative towns. Everyone’s situation is a little different, and there isn’t a really “one size fits all” solution. There are some teenagers [for whom] it really might not be the right time to come out if they really believe they are going to be kicked out of their homes. I get messages every day from people in small towns who feel so lost, and I encourage everyone to trust their instincts and do what feels right for them.

ACT: What’s one way people can take action after seeing the movie?

SHANE: There are a lot of organizations that are helping us with this movement, such as Love is Louder, GLAAD and the Human Rights Campaign. I encourage people to support these organizations. I encourage people to share their own personal stories, because I truly believe everyone sharing our own stories is the most effective way to create change. Hopefully this film will encourage more people to live honestly.

ACT: What advice do you have for other LGBTQ couples who are being denied the right to see their partner in the hospital right now?

SHANE: Tom and I never really had those conversations of what to do if one of us was in an accident. That’s why I encourage people to have those uncomfortable conversations and meet with an estate planner and meet with an attorney, to create a will, a medical power of attorney. It really does depend on the state you live in. Even if you don’t want to get married, you’ll want to prepare as much as you can. If you’re prepared, it can prevent a lot of heartache.

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Photo: The duo in Paris. (bridegroommovie.com)

ACT: Gay marriage was legalized in New Jersey this week, making it the 14th state to do so. What can supporters, like you, do to continue the progress?

SHANE: I’m so happy that marriage equality is happening in New Jersey now. We will have to tackle one state at a time, and, for the first time in history, the majority of Americans support marriage equality. I encourage people to generate awareness within their community, whether it’s starting a group or reaching out to a national organization and saying you want to do more in your community. You don’t have to be some legal expert to use your voice and help people. I never thought that by speaking up for myself that anyone would listen, or that it would have a positive impact. I think so much progress has been made because more and more LGBT citizens are proudly coming out and not being afraid to say, “We matter; we are your brothers, sisters, friends, and neighbors; we just want to be happy and treated equally.” At the end of the day, love is what matters in life and no one should be discriminated against for being who they are and loving who they love.

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