Gender Non-Conforming Teen Forced to Alter his Appearance for DMV Photo

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Chase Culpepper

Most people dress their best when looking forward to getting their driver’s license photo. After all, they’ll be toting that picture around as a form of identification for years to come.

Greg Kabel

One boy, Chase Culpepper, age 16, who wears makeup and androgynous or girl’s clothes on a regular basis, perfected his makeup and smoothed out his outfit for the photo, but was asked to change his appearance when he went to get his picture taken at the South Carolina DMV.

According to the press release, DMV employees did not think that he was dressed how a boy should be. When asked about a policy or rationale that would force him to change, an employee told Chase that DMV rules prohibited license photos to be taken in “disguise.”

Chase, who wanted his license, agreed to his makeup.

Now with the Transgender Legal Defense &Education Fund (TLDEF), he calls upon the South Carolina Department of Motor Vehicles to allow him to retake his picture with his normal appearance.

“Chase’s freedom to express his gender should not be restricted by DMV staff,” said TLDEF Executive Director Michael Silverman in a letter to the DMV. “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 right in violation of state and federal constitution protections.”

Chase hopes that with the case, he will help ease the burden other gender non-conforming teenagers experience.

“I want the DMV to take my picture again, with makeup, so I can put this incident behind me,” Chase said. “I also want to make sure that other gender non-conforming kids and adults do not have to go through this in thefuture.”


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