There was hardly a dry eye in the house at this year’s annual Pride lecture as writer, speaker and LGBTQ+ advocate Shane Bitney Crone shared his story of love and tragedy.
Crone came to international attention with the release of his 2013 documentary, “Bridegroom,” which was screened at the event.
Dr. Susan Wilson, vice chancellor of the Division of Diversity and Inclusion, spoke at the lecture about how important it is for UMKC to have these programs and events that many universities don’t provide.
“Every year, these pride lectures help us to bring down walls and promote an understanding and a welcoming campus environment,” Wilson said. “Part of our plan is to support an atmosphere of invigorating multiculturalism, globalism and inclusion, and our lecture series is one way that we do this.”
UMKC SGA President Justice Horn reflected this sentiment in his opening remarks.
“Tonight, we are providing a platform for further reflection, dialogue and action in our campus community and beyond,” Horn said.
Horn went on to introduce Crone and his groundbreaking film.
Crone spoke briefly before the film was screened and answered audience questions afterward. He also shared his delight that these conversations are being had in a university setting, which doesn’t often happen.
“It kind of seems like, more now than ever, it’s so important for our stories to be told,” Crone explained. “I know that we all have a story, and I’m just so grateful to be here and to have the opportunity to share my story with you.”
“Bridegroom,” tells the story of Crone growing up as a young gay man in conservative, small-town Montana and subsequently making a new life for himself in L.A. where he found true love and eventual, earth-shattering heartbreak.
Crone moved to Los Angeles in 2004 where he met his partner Tom Bridegroom. However, in 2011, six years into their relationship, Bridegroom fell to his death from a four-story Los Angeles apartment building during a photoshoot.
Bridegroom was raised in a staunchly conservative, religious household. His parents were never fully able to accept the fact that he was gay. After his death, they did everything in their power to erase Crone from their late son’s legacy.
They barred Crone from attending Bridegroom’s funeral and omitted his name from the funeral program that wasn’t even uttered once during the service. Bridegroom’s parents even went so far as to buy burial plots on both sides of his grave, which Crone speculates may have been to prevent him from being buried next to his late partner in the future.
Fortunately, Crone was able to find love again. Last year, he proposed to his partner, “American Idol” alumnus Rayvon Owen, on stage at a Demi Lovato concert.
Crone said it’s important for him to share his story and to honor his late partner’s legacy.
“It’s so important that we have these conversations and we share these stories because the stories are really what change peoples’ hearts and minds,” Crone said. “It’s the stories that allow us to connect with other people in ways that we never thought that we would be able to.”
According to Crone, there are a lot of people who don’t understand why he continues to, as they see it, live in the past with his film and lectures, but he believes that isn’t the case.
“For me, this is me not living in the past, it’s me moving forward and doing whatever I can to honor him and to make a difference,” Crone said. “Because so often, there’s nothing we can do to help other people. It’s easy to feel powerless, and I’ve learned firsthand that we all have the power and the capability to make other peoples’ lives better.”