A crowd of about 215 University students and faculty gathered to attend the viewing of the documentary Bridegroom and to discuss the issue of same-sex marriage with Shane Crone, documentary creator and same-sex marriage activist, in Anacon Hall on Wednesday, Nov 5.
Crone has recently been speaking at colleges across the country and Monmouth was one of the last schools left on his fall tour. The documentary is about the love story of Crone and Thomas Bridegroom and the struggles they faced as a same-sex couple. It emphasized how same-sex marriage ban laws affected Crone after Bridegroom’s tragic, unexpected death.
Crone explained that at first he was hesitant to go on tour but knew that it would force him to step out of his comfort zone and share his story with others.
“I am so glad that I said yes because of the special moments that have taken place on this tour,” said Crone. “At every school I have spoken at, I have encountered at least one person who is suffering for being a homosexual. There was a young man I spoke to who said the film prevented him from taking his own life.”
The Student Activities Board (SAB) planned the event. “The motto of the film is, ‘It’s not a gay thing, it’s not a straight thing, it’s a human thing,'” said Alicia Torello, SAB Chair of Awareness.
“The documentary pushes for equal rights for all humans,” the sophomore communication major said.
Towards the end of the film, majority of the audience members were in tears as the documentary explained Bridegroom’s accidental death.
Since Crone and Bridegroom were not legally entitled to marriage, Crone had no right to see his partner in the hospital. Crone was banned from his partner’s funeral by the request of Bridegroom’s family.
“I hope that students gained a level of sensitivity and an openness to different ideas and people,” said Megan McGowan, Assistant Director of Student Activities and Student Center Operations.
McGowan thought the documentary was powerful and that the event was intimate because of Crone’s presence.
“The film had many excellent qualities,” said Thomas Gallagher, an openly gay University alumnus and retired Consul General of the United States. “I enjoyed Tom and Shane’s playfulness. I was enraged that Shane was not allowed to say good-bye to his lover. I was saddened by Tom’s family’s reaction to their gayness, and I was able to relate personally to that experience,” Gallagher said.
“I liked the entire story. The kid who is picked on by everyone is able to find someone who truly loves him for who he is,” said Devon Loihle, a senior music major who attended the event.
The documentary was inspired by a video that Crone posted to YouTube after Bridegroom’s death titled It Could Happen to You. The video went viral and has almost five million views.
“The video helped push equality forward and explores the ramifications of marriage bans,” said Torello.
“Young people who are dealing with homosexual feelings will always face problems,” Gallagher said. “It isn’t easy to identify oneself as a minority when one is used to being in the majority.
Gallagher advised students to seek out resources when dealing with issues of sexual identity. “There are hotlines, sensitive counselors, and friends who will not condemn. Use those resources. Talk to someone you trust. There’s lots of reading material and some good films to watch. Don’t be afraid of your feelings,” he said.
The speaker explained how sharing his story has introduced new people into his life and has brought him to a better place.
“I have tried to make the most of my situation and reach out to as many people as possible,” said Crone. He said that even if he has changed one person’s life by sharing his story, then he has made a difference.
“There’s a vibrant gay group at Monmouth and every faculty member that I have spoken to is completely supportive of gay rights,” Gallagher said. “Our movement has come a long way in a relatively short span of history.”
At the conclusion of the discussion, Crone stayed for an extra hour after the event to speak with students individually about their personal struggles.
Crone closed by expressing the importance of being yourself. He said, “Life is short, so what makes you happy.”