Prizm News / March 22, 2019 / By Bob Vitale

Above and below: On the March 21 episode of “RuPaul’s Drag Race,” Andrew Levitt talks about a time during his days at Denison University when he was targeted by anti-gay “underground hate group.” (Photos captured from VH1 broadcast)

‘This is why I’m involved in gay rights issues, because I don’t want anyone ever to feel the way I felt,’ he says in latest ‘RuPaul’s Drag Race.’

By Bob Vitale

Nina West didn’t win either of the challenges on Thursday night’s episode of “RuPaul’s Drag Race,” but she certainly won a lot of hearts. 

Andrew Levitt, the 39-year-old Columbus resident who’s competing on Season 11 of the VH1 reality show, told a traumatic story about an incident during his college days at Denison University that he said informs his activism to this day. 

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The “Drag Race” queens were preparing for their big challenge, a comedy sendup of today’s political insanity called “Trump: The Ru-sical,” when Levitt told those around him that he loved the idea of a political challenge. 

We’ll let him take it from there… 

“I really wish the country would get back to how it was when Obama ran, about the idea of hope. I want people to have equal access. I want people to feel like they’re a part of the conversation. 

“My sophomore year—I was openly gay in college—and I ran for student government. And so this underground hate group that was on our really small conservative college campus took it upon themselves to harass me, to break into my dorm room, to threaten my life and say they were going to kill me. 

“I came home and there was ‘FAG’ carved into my door. There was a paper shoved underneath my door threatening me. The next night there was a voice-distortion message on my phone that said, ‘You dirty fag. We’re going to kill you.’ 

“One of my students came and knocked on my door and said someone’s trying to break into the building. I picked up the phone and it was that distorted voice saying, ‘We’re getting inside . We’re gonna get you.’ 

“It was so scary. I can remember thinking that I was in trouble. 

“I had to move out of my dorm room and move into an all-girls dorm and basically hide out for two weeks, basically until they found the person who was… It was awful. This was during the time period of Matthew Shepard. 

“Matthew Shepard was a college student in Wyoming who went out to a bar, and these monsters picked him up and they beat him to death and they hung him on a fence. 

“The Matthew Shepard murder changed my life. 

“This is why I’m involved in gay rights issues, because I don’t want anyone ever to feel the way I felt … that I wasn’t good enough or that I didn’t belong. 

“That’s why I do what I do, because I never want anyone to feel that way. Because it’s awful, you know? You don’t want to ever feel like you don’t matter.” 

Levitt told his story between footage from the “Drag Race” workroom and cutaways in which he spoke to the camera. He finished with observations about today’s climate. 

“We live in a culture right now where divisive rhetoric is winning. It’s our responsibility to create the world that we want to live in. 

“Don’t let anyone tell you that your voice doesn’t matter. We all have the power to, hopefully, exact change.” 

His words inspired fellow contestant, Mercedes Iman Diamond, a Minneapolis performer who’s the show’s first Muslim contestant, to talk more openly about her faith. The week before, Mercedes brushed off questions from other queens about her religion.

“I feel like I was hurting myself by hiding,” she said after she was eliminated. “Be proud and loud and let the world hear you.”

Nina was safe on last night’s show. She’ll be back for next week’s episode.

Bob Vitale
A Toledo native and graduate of Toledo Public Schools, Bob has worked as a local government and politics reporter for The Columbus Dispatch, as a Washington correspondent for Thomson Newspapers and as editor-in-chief for Outlook Ohio. He has a bachelor's degree in journalism and political science from Ball State University and a master's degree in public affairs reporting from the University of Illinois-Springfield.