The DMV has rejected demands from a gender non-conforming teenager in South Carolina to be allowed to wear make up for a driver’s license photo.
Chase Culpepper, who wears androgynous clothing and make up, had requested a new photo after staff in the Anderson office in March ordered him to look less like a girl.
A Transgender legal group wrote a letter of complaint, but the DMV has said that it will not bow to pressure to change its rules.
Chase says staff claimed that DMV rules stated that the photo needed to show the person as they appear normally, and banned pictures taken in ‘disguise’.
‘This is who I am and my clothing and make-up reflect that,’ Chase said. ‘The Department of Motor Vehicles should not have forced me to remove my make-up simply because my appearance does not meet their expectations of what a boy should look like.’
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However, a request to the DMV from the Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund, which asked if the teenager could have his photo retaken, has been turned down.
Michel Silverman, executive director of the Transgender Legal Defense, said: ‘Chase’s freedom to express his gender should not be restricted by DMV staff.
‘He is entitled to be who he is and express that without interference from government actors.’
Upset: Chase wanted to have the license picture, above, retaken after he was forced to remove his make up
Denied: A request to let Chase, a gender non-conforming teenager, get a new picture has been turned down
But Beth Parks, a spokeswoman for the agency, said that the DMV will be sticking to its rules.
Ms Parks said that since 2009, the policy for driver’s license photos had been that ‘at no time will an applicant be photographed when it appears that he or she is purposely altering his or her appearance so that it the photo would misrepresent his or her identity’.
She added that law enforcement agencies relied on the photos to identify people and said Chase’s requests for a new picture would be denied.
‘If it’s Thomas Jones on the license and yet it looks like a female, that is very confusing for them. They want to know what the identity is,’ she said.
Big day: Chase had been excited about applying for a driver’s license, but left the DMV offices upset
Complaint: The Transgender Legal Defense wrote to the DMV after staff allegedly told Chase that wearing make up was a ‘disguise’
Chase’s mother, Teresa Culpepper, told WYFF4: her son had been upset by his experiences at the DMV.
‘They said he was wearing a disguise. It was very hurtful. He was absolutely devastated. That’s who he is 24/7,’ she said.
Mrs Culpepper said the DMV policy had ruined what should have been an exciting day for the teenager.
‘Instead, he was singled out and discriminated against because he did not meet the DMV’s expectations of how a boy should look,’ she told Pink News.
‘I want my son to be able to be himself without discrimination or harassment. I love him that way and the government should not be telling him that he’s not OK the way he is.’