A letter from Shane Bitney Crone:
I grew up with a large conservative Republican family, in a small conservative Montana town. I always knew I was different from my peers; those differences resulted in bullying, which led to extreme panic attacks, anxiety, and depression. It seemed as though life would never get better and I even contemplated suicide.
What helped me survive those painful years was knowing that I could one day escape to a place where I would be free to live however I want, and love whomever I choose.
I moved to Los Angeles just a few short months after graduating from high school. Not long after my arrival in Hollywood, I met the love of my life: Tom. He and I proceeded to build a life together, which included starting a business, buying a home, and adopting a dog.
We realized that in order to be fully committed to one another, we would need to officially come out to our respective families. Mine embraced our relationship, while Tom’s parents blamed me for “turning” him gay, pulled a gun on him, and encouraged him to take his sinful sexuality to the grave with him.
In spite of this trauma, we continued to live our lives together happily. We vowed to marry when it would be legally recognized in our state, California. That possibility would come too late though.
On May 7th, 2011, just a few months after Tom gave me a promise ring, he tragically fell from our best friend’s rooftop while taking photos. He didn’t survive. To worsen an already tragic accident, his mother (whom I thought had finally started to support our relationship), took his body back to Indiana without notifying me of any memorial plans. Tom’s family banned me from attending his funeral, and threatened physical harm should I come anywhere near them. I was never able to say a proper goodbye to the man I had loved for six years.
For the majority of my life I refused to stand up for what I believed in, and for who I was, out of fear and shame. Tom lived his life fully, openly, and lovingly, and he always encouraged me to embrace my flaws and strengths with pride.
On the one year anniversary of his death, I released a YouTube video that chronicled our relationship and the aftermath of his death. I wanted to help other couples, gay and straight, to prepare for the worst, and to enjoy the best. I wanted to teach others through my personal hardship and to inspire others with Tom’s laughter, smile, and courage.
The video went viral and I was approached by writer/director Linda Bloodworth Thomason, who wanted to turn our story into a feature-length documentary. We eventually launched the most successful film crowd-funding campaign in the history of Kickstarter. Over 6,000 people from all over the world pledged money to help tell Tom’s and my story.
I no longer live in a shadow of shame and embarrassment, and mostly because of Tom. I am proud of the love we shared, and the plans we made, and I want to help others carry out the dreams we never saw come true, even if it’s just through the telling of my story in this film.
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. This is my fairy tale, and Tom is, and always will be, my happy ending.