College professor, drag performer says bans can't stop the art form

One college professor has a unique perspective on the wave of drag bans in states across the U.S. He says the show will go on.
Posted at 10:38 PM, Apr 11, 2023

From an early age Kareem Khubchandani was surrounded by vibrant colors, beautiful textures and unique patterns. He credits his mom and aunties for inspiring the saris, jumpsuits and kaftans he often wears in his drag performances. 

"When I’m on stage I like to say my Aunties taught me that sequences are day wear and leopard print is neutral," Khubchandani said, sitting inside his apartment in Medford, Massachusetts.  

When he’s not on stage performing, the 40-year-old is teaching. He’s an Associate Professor of Theatre, Dance and Performance Studies at Tufts University just outside Boston. His studies also include gay nightlife and the history of drag, which gives him a unique perspective on the recent wave of drag bans advancing through state legislatures.  

"The danger in targeting these communities is it makes us feel like second-class citizens," he said.  

"For queer and trans people who feel like we’re at the margins of our families and society. Drag is what holds our community together a lot of times. And gives us a reason to come together," he added.  

There are no drag bans proposed in Massachusetts where Kareem lives and performs. But he’s left to wonder about the uncertainty these laws are creating.  

"Part of what’s missing in the conversation is how magnificent and beautiful and important drag is. How it holds communities together. How drag artists and folks in the drag community have been at the forefront of leading queer and civil rights movements," Khubchandani said.  

In the midst of a national debate over the art he loves, Kareem says for him and other artists, the show will still go on.  

"This is an opportunity for folks who want to know more to go to a drag show, go pay the money and support the profession and see how incredible it is."

Kelsea Ballerini, center, performs

Why is there debate over drag shows?

More than a dozen states have proposed legislation that would effectively restrict drag performances.