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Activist Shares His Painful but Hopeful Journey at UMKC Pride Lecture

Shane Bitney Crone’s story is the topic of a documentary
Shane Crone speaks at the 2019 Pride Lecture

Shane Bitney Crone was banned from the funeral of the love of his life. He went unmentioned at the ceremony and in the obituary. His partner’s family turned on him because he was the other half of a loving, committed gay couple. Crone shared his sorrow and ongoing recovery at the 13th annual UMKC Pride Lecture Nov. 21.

For Crone, telling his story is hard. But necessary, he said.

“It is so important that we have these conversations and share these stories, because it’s in telling these stories that we open people’s hearts and minds,” he said.

Crone and his partner, Tom Bridegroom, had been living together for more than five years when Bridgegroom fell to his death from a rooftop in 2012 while seeking a better angle for a photograph. As a couple, they traveled the world, started a successful business and promised to get married when it would be recognized by the federal government.

After the fall, Crone was initially not permitted to enter Bridegroom’s hospital room, though sympathetic hospital staff eventually ignored the rules and let him in. Bridegroom’s family had all the legal rights to his body, property and services. They shut Crone out completely, refusing to even tell him the day, time and site of the funeral. 

On the one-year anniversary of Bridegroom's death, Shane uploaded a video to YouTube called "It Could Happen to You." His goal was to demonstrate that common humanity that we all share. The video went viral within a matter of days and has since been viewed more than 20 million times on social media.

“It is so important that we have these conversations and share these stories, because it’s in telling these stories that we open people’s hearts and minds.”

Hollywood producer Linda Bloodworth-Thomason was inspired by the video and approached Crone about turning his story into a feature-length documentary. The film, “Bridegroom: A Love Story, Unequaled,” premiered at the 2013 Tribeca Film Festival where it was introduced by former President Bill Clinton.

Today, Crone travels the world to show the film and, more importantly, ignite conversations that he hopes will lead those prejudiced against the LGBTQIA community to open their hearts and minds to think in different ways.

After showing the film, Crone took questions from the audience. One asked how he managed to pick up the pieces of his life following that painful tragedy.

“That first year was dark,” Crone responded. “I reminded myself what Tom would have wanted, and he would not have wanted me to stay in that space.”

In the seven years since Bridegroom’s death, Crone has become a speaker and activist, and found a new love. He’s now engaged.

“I want to think that Tom would be happy for me.”

Published: Nov 25, 2019

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