I have held many jobs throughout my life: day camp counselor, ice cream store cook, sandwich artist, retail associate, and even weed-remover. Today I am proud to call myself an activist, speaker, writer, and filmmaker. I grew up in Kalispell, Montana, a conservative, small town near the state’s famous Flathead Lake. At a young age, I was a very active member of my tight-knit community; I was once even awarded Student of the Year for my leadership. Despite my efforts to fit in, however, I was the victim of years of homophobic bullying and battled severe depression. Determined to escape the close-mindedness of my hometown, I graduated from high school, packed up all of my worldly belongings, and trekked to Los Angeles where I would pursue my dreams of working in the entertainment industry.
In 2005, knee-deep in the world of Hollywood, I met a young man who would change my life, and heart, forever: Tom Bridegroom. We fell quickly in love, and soon collaborated on all aspects of our lives. We founded a social media/public relations company, established a successful music blog, purchased a home, and adopted a dog, JB. Tom and I were lucky enough to share the American dream of starting a business, buying a home, and with any hope getting married. But our dreams came to an end in May 2011, when Tom died in a tragic accident.
A year after Tom’s death, I created a YouTube video about my experiences entitled “It Could Happen to You.” In ten minutes I recounted Tom’s and my story, including the series of injustices I suffered during the aftermath of his death. The video ultimately went viral: it garnered over four million views and was translated into over a dozen languages. I was incredibly honored when GLAAD named it one of the “Most Inspiring Videos that Helped Push Equality Forward in 2012.”
Linda Bloodworth Thomason, creator of Designing Women and director/producer of the critically acclaimed Man from Hope, took interest in my story. Together we produced a full-length documentary, Bridegroom: A Love Story, Unequaled, which releases in the fall of 2013. The film explores Tom’s and my life together, the fallout from Tom’s untimely death, and the broader ramifications of marriage bans. I am deeply honored that this documentary has earned numerous accolades, including audience awards at every film festival at which it’s been screened. Festivals of note include Tribeca Film Festival and Los Angeles’ Outfest Film Festival.
In spite of a lifetime of harassment and discrimination, I have always tried to channel my energy to support good causes, hoping to inspire others, particularly young LGBTQ people, with my personal stories. I am blessed to lobby for marriage equality alongside organizations such as GLAAD and the Human Rights Campaign, and am deeply humbled as my work gets recognized around the world. In 2012 I was awarded the Harvey Milk Civil Rights Award and was named one of Instinct Magazine’s Leading Men.
Today I travel regularly to promote Bridegroom and to continue campaigning for LGBTQ rights. While I am blessed to have the opportunity to meet supporters and make new friends, I am always happy when I can spend time at home in Los Angeles with my supportive friends and beloved dog.