It’s tempting to call Martha and Norman Bridegroom of Knox, Indiana, the parents of Tom Bridegroom who died last year, the “worst parents in the world.” But their story, sadly, isn’t unique.
It’s happened before, and still happens.
(UPDATE: Since I first wrote this story, a documentary has been produced about it, and is currently (October of 2013) opening in NYC and southern California. More on the documentary further down. Thus the bump-up of this post, with additional information added at the bottom.)
I have a gay relative whose parents no longer consider him their son because he’s gay and has a (wonderful) partner of nearly twenty years now. Bad parents can be vicious parents (and you are a bad parent if you treat your son, and his family, like this).
There’s a viral YouTube video going around about a young gay man and how his parents reportedly mistreated him and his partner after they found out he was gay. Things only got worse when he died at the age of 29. The surviving partner made the video, and it’s heartbreaking. (Video is below.)
While Shane was at home resting, she left with Tom for Indiana without allowing Shane to say goodbye.
Tom’s father, Norman Bridegroom, then threatened violence against Shane if he were to attend the funeral Indiana.
Shane was shut out.
Shane says that Tom’s mom promised to stay in touch, let him know about the funeral, etc. She never reached out to him again.
Shane says that Tom’s parents did, however, get word to him that if he showed up at the funeral he would be “attacked” by Tom’s father and uncle. This, after Tom reportedly claimed that his father threatened him with a gun, and physically attacked him, when he came home at Christmas after having told his parents he was gay.
Of course, the reaction of the hospital wasn’t any better. They refused to tell Shane anything about what happened to Tom without the mother’s permission because – drum roll please – gay relationships aren’t real relationships in the eyes of the law. (I’m curious as to how the hospital got away with doing this since the President supposedly mandated that hospitals treat gay partners as family – that treatment should include medical records. Does it?)
This video came out a while ago. I’d never heard of it. Apparently they’ve raised a lot of money to do a documentary about the story. Watch this video. It’s ten minutes long, very well done, and totally worth it. (UPDATE: The documentary is out, and apparently won an award in 2013.)
Shane has also released a letter, that explains more:
A letter from Shane Bitney Crone:
I grew up with a large conservative Republican family, in a small conservative Montana town. I always knew I was different from my peers; those differences resulted in bullying, which led to extreme panic attacks, anxiety, and depression. It seemed as though life would never get better and I even contemplated suicide.
What helped me survive those painful years was knowing that I could one day escape to a place where I would be free to live however I want, and love whomever I choose.
I moved to Los Angeles just a few short months after graduating from high school. Not long after my arrival in Hollywood, I met the love of my life: Tom. He and I proceeded to build a life together, which included starting a business, buying a home, and adopting a dog.
We realized that in order to be fully committed to one another, we would need to officially come out to our respective families. Mine embraced our relationship, while Tom’s parents blamed me for “turning” him gay, pulled a gun on him, and encouraged him to take his sinful sexuality to the grave with him.
In spite of this trauma, we continued to live our lives together happily. We vowed to marry when it would be legally recognized in our state, California. That possibility would come too late though.
On May 7th, 2011, just a few months after Tom gave me a promise ring, he tragically fell from our best friend’s rooftop while taking photos. He didn’t survive. To worsen an already tragic accident, his mother (whom I thought had finally started to support our relationship), took his body back to Indiana without notifying me of any memorial plans. Tom’s family banned me from attending his funeral, and threatened physical harm should I come anywhere near them. I was never able to say a proper goodbye to the man I had loved for six years.
For the majority of my life I refused to stand up for what I believed in, and for who I was, out of fear and shame. Tom lived his life fully, openly, and lovingly, and he always encouraged me to embrace my flaws and strengths with pride.
On the one year anniversary of his death, I released a YouTube video that chronicled our relationship and the aftermath of his death. I wanted to help other couples, gay and straight, to prepare for the worst, and to enjoy the best. I wanted to teach others through my personal hardship and to inspire others with Tom’s laughter, smile, and courage.
The video went viral and I was approached by writer/director Linda Bloodworth Thomason, who wanted to turn our story into a feature-length documentary. We eventually launched the most successful film crowd-funding campaign in the history of Kickstarter. Over 6,000 people from all over the world pledged money to help tell Tom’s and my story.
I no longer live in a shadow of shame and embarrassment, and mostly because of Tom. I am proud of the love we shared, and the plans we made, and I want to help others carry out the dreams we never saw come true, even if it’s just through the telling of my story in this film.
Bridegroom is not about revenge or politics. It is a film about love, forgiveness, and about finding the courage to be who you are when the world says you shouldn’t. This is my fairy tale, and Tom is, and always will be, my happy ending.
I will say one thing: I hope the Bridegroom’s of Indiana are enjoying their 15 minutes of fame. They’re now a YouTube sensation, with 4 millions views as of this writing.
They say there’s a special place in hell. Well, that place is on the Internet, where bad deeds live forever, especially if your last name is as unique as “Bridegroom.” (Google it – on the first results page you’ll find links to the story of how they treated their son.)
You wonder if the parents have any concept that they just “Santorumed” their family name forever.
The documentary, “Bridegroom” is now out – initial showings are in southern California and NYC. Here’s the trailer for the documentary, it’s pretty moving. Then below that is a video Shane made that’s even more moving.
And as a reminder that this story happens all too often, a reader wrote the following after hearing about this story:
I was allowed to attend the funeral for my partner, but not the burial. A group of local drag queens held their own service for him in a public park because the LGBT community was excluded. I was 28. You never get over something like that.
Three days after the funeral, I had a sheriff’s deputy knocking on my door with a court order to enter my home and remove anything the family claimed was his. They also forged my name on the title of the car we purchased together and sold it. They had it “repossessed” right out of my driveway.
A few weeks later, I went to the cemetery to place flowers on his grave and discovered the grave had been moved. There was just an empty spot.
You were right when you wrote that these things are not uncommon. I have spoken to dozens of people who have had similar experiences over the years. If we had been legally married, I would not have experienced those kinds of problems.
This is one stark example of why gay couples are fighting for the right to marry. You are not truly equal until you are truly married.
Here’s Shane’s video, telling the story – which really is a must-watch:
And here’s some local coverage of the story: