25th Annual GLAAD Media Awards: Visible and Understood

by Chris Carpenter

Rage Monthly

Tuesday April 8, 2014

For a quarter of a century, the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) has recognized and honored each year's media achievements in presenting fair, accurate and inclusive representations of the LGBT community and the issues that affect our lives. Having grown to 20 English-language categories and nine Spanish-language categories, the annual GLAAD Media Awards are today celebrated bi-coastally each spring in both Los Angeles and New York City.

This year's L.A. edition will be held Saturday, April 12, at the Beverly Hilton Hotel. Singer-actress Jennifer Lopez will be honored with GLAAD's Vanguard ward, presented to artists "who, through their work, have increased the visibility and understanding of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community."

Lopez currently serves as executive producer on "The Fosters," a GLAAD nominated TV series focusing on lesbian couple and their children, as well as a judge on "American Idol."

Among other honorees and special guests at the April 12 event will be Stephen F. Kolzak Award-winner, Laverne Cox ("Orange is the New Black"), cast members of "The Fosters," Kelly Osbourne, GLAAD National Spokespersons Wilson Cruz and Omar Sharif, Jr.

Director Linda Bloodworth-Thomason creator of the classic TV series "Designing Women," is to joined by Shane Bitney Crone, the subject of one of the most acclaimed documentaries of 2013, "Bridegroom," who will also be in attendance. The documentary depicts the numerous hardships Crone faced following the untimely death of his boyfriend, Tom Bridegroom.

Crone chatted with The Rage Monthly about his and Bridegroom's growing recognition.

How were you first approached about making your video journal into a documentary movie?

About a month after I posted my YouTube video, which went viral, I was approached by writer/director Linda Bloodworth-Thomason. She convinced me that my story needed to be told and that she wanted to be the one to turn it into a feature length documentary. We both agreed that personal stories are the most effective way of opening hearts and minds. She wanted people to come face to face with who and what they are opposing, which essentially is love.

What was the experience of making Bridegroom like for you personally?

Working on the documentary was hard at times. I was forced to revisit the darkest period of my life and, although it definitely opened up some wounds, overall it was a very cathartic and healing experience for me. I'm grateful to Linda for encouraging me to take an active role in making the film. I'm so proud of it, and am beyond thankful that I will have a permanent, tangible testament to Tom and the love we shared.

Did you expect the movie to become so well- received, even winning honors from critics groups and GLAAD?

Linda and I definitely did not anticipate as much success as we have had. With a limited budget we set out to make a simple, relatable, moving film that focused on the love story and not the politics. We were beyond thrilled and honored to have "Bridegroom" premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival, where we won the Audience Award for best documentary. "Bridegroom" won the Audience Award at nearly every festival at which it screened and was named Best Documentary at the 2013 Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics' Dorian Awards.

We are also very humbled by our recent GLAAD nomination. Accolades aside, "Bridegroom" has achieved the greatest accomplishment of all: Opening people's hearts and minds and inspiring others to fight for equal rights.

Have you gotten any negative feedback from viewers or from Tom's family?

"Life is fragile and you never know when it might be your last day. We owe it to all of the friends, family members and those who are no longer with us to live our lives proudly and shamelessly."

Marriage equality and LGBT rights are such polarizing social issues, so we knew that the film would not impress or receive great reviews from everyone. We got many hateful messages and comments from people, but that feedback was minimal compared to all of the positive and warm responses. People have said that the film gave them hope and literally stopped them from taking their own life. As cliché as it sounds, the fact that we were able to reach even one person is rewarding and makes it easy to ignore the opposition.

We wanted Tom's family to participate in the documentary but his parents never responded. Dozen of Tom's relatives have seen the film, though, and have told me that they are proud of it and support me, for which I'm tremendously grateful.

I understand you have been traveling quite a bit, showing and discussing the film with students and other audiences. How has that experience been?

I recently started a college screening tour, which has truly been an amazing experience. I'm so inspired by these organizations and students; they are working hard to promote equal rights and celebrate diversity on their respective campuses. It gives me great hope that future generations will live in a world filled with more love and tolerance.

More personally, have you had a romantic relationship with anyone since Tom's passing? Do you envision yourself in one in the future?

For a long period of time following Tom's passing, the thought of falling in love again made me sick. As I've healed over the years, though, I've come to realize that I am still so young, and the probability of falling in love again is likely. If it's meant to happen, it will. I hope I will love again, but right now I'm focused on sharing my story, spreading awareness and learning to love myself.

Will "Bridegroom" be available on DVD or online streaming? You've also mentioned it may be adapted into a stage play.

"Bridegroom" premiered on the Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN) last October, and since then has become available on Netflix, iTunes, and at Redbox kiosks. A lot of people have encouraged me to write a book, and I have been approached by a handful of people who believe that the story should be adapted into a play. I can't say for sure where or how the story of "Bridegroom" will end, but I plan on doing whatever it takes to continue opening people's hearts and minds. Part of that includes exploring alternative avenues and mediums that could potentially reach more people.

With your newfound fame, do you see yourself pursuing a future in show business or do you have other career plans?

I definitely don't consider myself famous, but I am aware that I have an invaluable opportunity and an unexpected platform to reach a lot of people. I have no intention of pursuing a career in show business, but I am open to producing more documentaries about issues that inspire. I also hope I can continue traveling and speaking to young people.

Any advice for readers who may have suffered a similar loss or experience as you have since Tom's death and his family's reaction to you?

Losing my partner Tom showed me that life is fragile and you never know when it

might be your last day. We owe it to all of the friends, family members and those 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; don't give power to your unfortunate circumstances or to people who try to minimize or degrade you. Stand up for what you believe in, be proud of who you are and do what makes you happy, because tomorrow isn't promised.

For information about the film, go to bridegroommovie.com. For tickets and more information about the GLAAD Media Awards, go to glaad.org

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