With less than 2 weeks until it makes its Pacific NW debut at the 2013 Portland Lesbian & Gay Film Festival (PLGFF), the city is abuzz about the festival’s opening night film, Bridegroom, a documentary by Linda Bloodsworth-Thomason, chronicling two men in love – Shane Bitney Crone and Tom Bridegroom, whose relationship was cut short by a tragic accident.
The story of what happened after Tom’s death is one which rings true for many LGBTQ people living without the protections of marriage, and is a timely account for those of us living in Oregon – a state which still treats its LGBTQ citizens as 2nd class.
I caught up with Shane Bitney Crone this week for Queer Voices. Read our chat below, then get tickets to the opening night screening of Bridegroom October 4th HERE. Shane will be in attendance at the screening.
Logan Lynn: Hey Shane. Thanks for chatting with me today. I’m really looking forward to seeing “Bridegroom” next month at the Portland Lesbian & Gay Film Festival. Have you been to Portland before?
Shane Bitney Crone: I am extremely excited to visit Portland. This will be the second trip I’ve taken there. The first trip was with my partner Tom to visit one of our best friends and her family. I’m tremendously honored that Bridegroom will be screened at the Portland Gay and Lesbian Film Festival.
Logan Lynn: How has it been for you to have your story be told to such a huge audience, first with the short film you made in honor of Tom, your longtime partner, which went viral online, and and now in the form of a feature length film?
Shane Bitney Crone: I made the video to honor my partner Tom on the one year anniversary of his passing and to show everyone that love is love. Making the video was a very cathartic experience as I was still in mourning. For most of my life I was ashamed of being gay and I allowed the media, my peers, and Christian hate speech to convince me that I was less than and undeserving of love. Tom spent years trying to convince me I was worthy of love and he encouraged me to stand up for what I believe in, but I was never really able, and even to this day I sometimes have doubts. I learned so much after his accident. Having gone through this experience, I encourage people to prepare as much as they can for the unexpected.
Watch: Shane Bitney Crone’s video “It Could Happen To You” on YouTube:
Logan Lynn: What did you expect when you first uploaded the video? Were you surprised by the reaction “It Could Happen to You” inspired?
Shane Bitney Crone: I thought that maybe a few hundred people would see the video – perhaps a few thousand. I never expected the video to pass one million views within two days, especially given the fact the video is over 10 minutes long, which is very rare for a viral video. Needless to say, it was quite a surprise and then I started receiving hundreds of messages on Facebook from people all over the world offering words of support and encouragement. It made the first anniversary of Tom’s accident a day of love and support instead of a day of sadness and isolation.
Logan Lynn: How did Designing Women writer/director/creator Linda Bloodsworth-Thomason enter the picture?
Shane Bitney Crone: Shortly after the video went viral, Linda 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 saw 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 prejudice first hand. Bridegroom tells our love story, which includes our upbringings in small conservative towns, the life we built together, and the aftermath of his tragic passing, but it also represents all people who yearn to be who they are and love who they love without being judged and discriminated against.
Logan Lynn: I love that sentiment. What would you say was your ultimate goal in making the film?
Shane Bitney Crone: Bridegroom is not about revenge or politics. It is a film about love, forgiveness, and about finding the courage to be who you are when the world says you shouldn’t. I hope Bridegroom will help parents understand their children better and I hope it provides hope to teens struggling with their identity.
Logan Lynn: I hope so, too! Who are some of your queer heroes?
Shane Bitney Crone: There are many iconic gay rights heroes whom I admire – Harvey Milk, of course, and every last man who stood at Stonewall. I have to say, though, that George Takei is one of my biggest heroes. Not only was he was held in a Japanese American internment camp as a child during World War II, he has openly shared himself with the LGBTQ community and world not just an actor and social media celebrity, but as a hard-working, outspoken activist. Unlike many celebrities, gay or straight, he does not use his life experience for merely personal or financial gain; George Takei captures the hearts of people spanning multiple generations by living his life exactly how he wants, while staying true to himself and his loved ones. He is to be admired tremendously for his humor, talent, and his continuous quest for social justice. I am delighted to call him my hero, and honored to count him as a friend.
Logan Lynn: Yeah! Captain Sulu!!! If you had the ear of every potential straight ally out there, what would you say to them?
Shane Bitney Crone: To current straight allies, I say, THANK YOU! Thank you for your support, your commitment to equal rights, your love, and your kindness. To those on the fence, I cannot beg you to become a straight ally, but I can explain to you why LGBTQ people deserve your help. While we may be a minority, we are just like you. We are black, white, Asian, Hispanic, and Middle Eastern-just like you. We are young, middle-aged, and old-just like you. We are Christians, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, and Athiests-just like you. And we can be happy, sad, angry, heartbroken, and in love-just like you. Shouldn’t we be allowed to get health insurance, marry our partners, raise children, and die with dignity-just like you?
Shane Bitney Crone: Having LGBTQ community centers are vital to creating an environment in which LGBTQ individuals feel at home and are protected. Many are forced to leave their homes or communities, or feel alienated at school, because they are not accepted for whom they are. This is heartbreaking, and I am relieved to see a surge in these types of centers throughout the country. It upsets me to think we live in a world in which having these types of community centers and safe spaces are even necessary, but until LGBTQ people are no longer treated like second-class citizens, it is imperative to offer them places that they can call home and interact with people like themselves.
Logan Lynn: Agreed! Why should people see Bridegroom?
Shane Bitney Crone: I think that regardless of people’s age, sexual orientation, or the state they live in, I believe they will be able to connect to the film. At the end of the day, love is love and loss is loss. It’s not a gay or straight thing, it’s a human thing. Also, one of my best friends, Coleen McMahon, who was also Tom’s best friend, grew up in Portland. She’s in the documentary as well and she performed the song “Beautiful Boy” which is in my viral YouTube video. She will be at the Portland screening along with her family.
Logan Lynn: You mention “loss being loss”. Do you have any advice for people who may be grieving the loss of a loved one while they are reading this?
Shane Bitney Crone: Losing Tom showed me that life is fragile and you never know when it might be your last day. Many people know what it’s like to lose someone we love. I feel like we owe it to all of the friends, family members and strangers who are no longer with us to live our lives proudly and shamelessly. I’ve spent most of my life living in fear and holding myself back from truly being free. Don’t do what I did and give power to your unfortunate circumstances. Stand up for what you believe in, be proud of who you are and do what makes you happy, because tomorrow isn’t promised.
Logan Lynn: You are now a spokesperson for GLAAD, attending Pride events across the country and promoting your film at festivals. What’s next for you?
Shane Bitney Crone: For whatever reason, this is where my life has taken me. I didn’t always used to believe that everything happens for a reason, but I can’t help but think that Tom is now standing in for something even larger than himself. I don’t believe his last name Bridegroom is just a coincidence. After Tom died, I struggled to find reasons to live, but I have now found my voice – a voice that I thought was powerless…a voice that Tom spent most of our relationship encouraging me to use. Even though so many positive things have taken place following the release of my YouTube video, I still have bad days and struggle with confidence and loving myself, but that’s okay. I’m not perfect. No one is. I can only strive to be the best ME in any given moment. I have a rare opportunity to potentially help a lot of people right now. Sharing my story and fighting for other people to experience the dream of marriage that Tom and I didn’t get to live has brought so much meaning and purpose into my life. I’m not sure what happens next, but in my heart I know that I must spend my life standing up for equality and fighting until LGBT citizens are no longer second class. I owe it Tom, myself, and all the other Toms and Shanes of the world.
Logan Lynn: Speaking of the world, what are your thoughts on what’s taking place right now with Russia’s queer community?
Shane Bitney Crone: What’s occurring in Russia at the moment makes me sick to my stomach. I have dealt with discrimination and threats of violence because of my sexuality, and knowing that anyone, in Russia or anywhere else, is going through similar hardship disappoints and saddens me. I can’t believe that in a country with whom we once raced to space, there are still such archaic, closed-minded laws being made. Russia is a giant nation; Shouldn’t it have greater concerns than worrying about whether or not a man chooses to love another man? Putin and his government lackeys’ homophobic approach to politics is abhorrent. I hope that the rest of the world continues to protest Russia’s unjust laws and boycott the upcoming Winter Olympics. I know I won’t watch, unless Russia does something drastic to remove these prejudiced regulations from law and to start protecting its LGBTQ citizens.
Logan Lynn: Thanks so much, Shane. I really appreciate how brave you are with your truth. Great work, man. I wish you the best and look forward to meeting you at PLGFF next month!
Shane Bitney Crone: Thank you for your support!
For more on Shane Bitney Crone, click HERE.
To get involved with ending marriage discrimination in Oregon, click HERE.
To purchase tickets and passes to Bridegroom at opening night of the 2013 Portland Lesbian & Gay Film Festival, click HERE.
Watch: The Official Trailer for the 2013 Portland Lesbian & Gay Film Festival
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