A transgender rights group is asking the South Carolina Department of Motor Vehicles to allow a gender non-conforming teen to retake his driver's license photo while wearing makeup.
Chase Culpepper -- a 16-year-old who wears makeup and androgynous or girls' clothing on a daily basis -- went to the DMV in Anderson on March 3 with his mother to get his driver's license after passing his driver's test, according to a press release obtained by The Huffington Post. However, he was told he couldn't be photographed while wearing makeup.
DMV employees said he did not look the way they thought a boy should, and one individual called his makeup a "disguise," the release notes. Culpepper ultimately removed his makeup and got his photo taken, but the experience left a mark.
“This is who I am and my clothing and makeup reflect that,” he says in the release. “The Department of Motor Vehicles should not have forced me to remove my makeup simply because my appearance does not meet their expectations of what a boy should look like. I just want the freedom to be who I am without the DMV telling me that I’m somehow not good enough.”
On June 9, the Transgender Legal Defense & Education Fund (TLDEF) sent a letter to the South Carolina DMV on behalf of Culpepper. The letter, which alleges the teen's constitutional rights were violated, reads, in part:
In the end, Chase was told that he could not wear makeup simply because boys typically do not wear makeup. It was not because his makeup acted as any type of disguise of his identity. Sex stereotypes like this do not justify a government agency’s restriction of constitutionally protected expression.
TLDEF asked that Culpepper be granted the opportunity to retake his license photo. Culpepper says: “I want the DMV to take my picture again, with makeup, so I can put this incident behind me.
However, a representative from the DMV told HuffPost that it is unlikely Culpepper will be able to retake the picture because of a 2009 clause added to the driver's license photo policy. The clause reads: "At no time can an applicant be photographed when it appears that he or she is purposefully altering his or her appearance so that the photo would misrepresent his or her identity."
According to the rep, the DMV works with law enforcement on these decisions.
"If it says male [on the license], that's what they're gonna look for. They expect the photo to be of a man," she said. "If they stop somebody and they're dressed as a woman, they can straighten that out."
(h/t Pink News)