After a 16-year-old from Anderson, South Carolina passed his driving test, DMV employees told him he had to remove the makeup he was wearing before he could get his driver’s license picture taken. “I was in complete shock,” Chase Culpepper told WHNS Fox Carolina. “She told us that I could not wear a disguise because according to them, makeup was a disguise and that I did not look like a boy should.”
The teen recalled, “It was very degrading and I felt, I was in shock.” As reported by WYFF News 4, Culpepper considers himself gender non-conforming and wears girl’s clothing and make-up daily.
Teresa Culpepper, Chase’s mom, said told WHNS she felt, “Angry, upset, heartbroken that my government was telling my son, ‘You must conform to our ideals of what a man should look like.’”
In order to get his first driver’s license, Chase took off his makeup and complied. However, the family considers the DMV’s treatment discriminatory and Chase wants an opportunity to take his driver’s license photo appearing as he does every day. "This is how I am every day,” the teen explained. “And if a police officer wanted to recognize how I am, then, he would want to see who I am in my picture as well." Ms. Culpepper said that Chase not wearing makeup “would be a disguise in itself.”
WHNS reports that the South Carolina DMV photo policy, last updated in 2009 reads: "At no time will 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." “His ID says that he’s male,” Beth Parks, a spokesperson for the South Carolina DMV, told the station via phone. “That the card says that he’s male, he needs to look like a male.”
Chase asked the Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund for help. They agreed that the teen’s rights had been violated and on June 9 contacted the DMV expressing so. Parks said that if a person is transgender and has their name and gender changed through the courts, then the DMV would honor that change. “I’m still developing, like, into the person that I am,” the teen said. “Like, I’m still trying to figure all that stuff out.”
Parks said that because the DMV acted according to policy, Chase would not be allowed to retake his driver’s license photo. The family is looking into the possibility of legal action.
Chase says he’s sharing his story to drive change and prevent others from having to go through what he did. “I’m very proud of him,” Ms. Culpepper said. “I love him very much and I stand behind him one hundred percent because he’s not done anything wrong.” Chase added, “I don’t think anyone, no matter who you are should have to feel like that.”