Filmmaker and speaker Shane Bitney Crone was invited to share his personal experience as a member and advocate of the LGBTQ+ community on campus Monday evening by Activities Council of Bradley University (ACBU).
Since he was young, Crone said he struggled with his identity as a gay man and the stigma members of the gay community face. He cited the movie Philadelphia, starring Tom Hanks as a gay AIDS patient, as a pivotal memory when he was eight years old.
I knew that I saw myself in [Tom Hanks character], Crone said. I knew that he liked boys like I did, and I was terrified that I was going to end up just like him. I thought that, because he liked boys, he got sick, and he died, and I thought thats what would exactly happen to me.
After graduating high school, Crone moved to Los Angeles and met a man named Tom Bridegroom. According to Crone, they started a relationship together and decided to come out to their families. While Crone said his family was quite welcoming, Bridegrooms family was not pleased with his coming out. However, they continued their relationship.
In 2011, Bridegroom accidentally fell off a four-story building while taking photos and died. To cope with the one-year anniversary of the accident, Crone said he created a video called It Could Happen To You, which called for an expansion of LGBTQ+ rights, and the video went viral.
There was something inside of me that knew I needed to do something. I needed to do something to honor him and do something, for once, to stand up for myself, Crone said.
As a result of the video, Crone said he received messages from other young gay men and boys who asked him to be their spokesperson. Crone said he was surprised at their requests.
[Previously] if I was asked to get up and speak in front of a group of people, I just would have looked at you like youre crazy. Theres no way I could do that, Crone said. But when you see that there are people looking up to you and wanting your support, I just felt like I had to bear a responsibility and an opportunity to make a difference.
Eventually, Crone said the video helped him create a documentary called Bridegroom. The film, which was endorsed by Bill Clinton, premiered on Netflix and Oprah Winfreys TV network in 2013.
According to Jonathan Bohnert, ACBU critical issues coordinator, the organization brought Crone to campus because of his pertinent experiences in the LGBTQ+ community.
[His message] is super relevant to today and is something that not everyone is super aware of, Bohnert, a junior mechanical engineering major, said.
Some students, like Luniva Singh, said they were stunned and enlightened by Crones information about the gay community. She said she was impacted by his thoughts on the issues in the United States and from hearing his experiences.
I loved how Shane could just be himself and tell other people about his story and inspire them to live on, Singh, a sophomore biomedical science major, said. Some of the facts that he was telling us about society and how they treated people in the LGBT community [were things] I didnt know.
At the end of his speech, Crone left the audience with a call to action.
I hope that you will be inspired to go out there and to make a positive impact on the lives of others, Crone said. [Our world] needs us to stand up, to speak out and to reach out to someone who is different from ourselves.