A South Carolina teen says he wants to retake his driver’s license photograph after employees at the Anderson Department of Motor Vehicles allegedly forced him to remove his make-up.
Chase Culpepper, 16, says he considers himself a gender non-conformist. He wears make-up and women’s clothing every day.
Culpepper says the Anderson DMV made him remove his makeup on March 3 because they said it was a disguise.
“This is who I am and my clothing and makeup reflect that,” he said in the release obtained by the Huffington Post. “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.”
DMV spokesperson Beth Parks told WYFF that DMV employees just followed protocol. As of August 2009 she said policy states, “At no time will an applicant be photographed when it appears that he or she is purposely altering his or her appearance so that the photo would misrepresent his or her identity.
"If it says male [on the license], that's what they're gonna look for. They expect the photo to be of a man," Parks said. "If they stop somebody and they're dressed as a woman, they can straighten that out."
The Transgender Legal Defense & Educational Fund sent a letter to the DMV on June 9 stating that it had violated Culpepper’s constitutional rights.
"Chase’s freedom to express his gender should not be restricted by DMV staff,” said TLDEF executive director Michael Silverman in the letter. “He is entitled to be who he is and to express that without interference from government actors. Forcing Chase to remove his makeup prior to taking his driver’s license photo restricts his free speech rights in violation of state and federal constitutional protections.
“In the end, Chase was told that he could not wear makeup simply because boys typically do not wear makeup,” he said. “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.”