Queer Teen Not Allowed to Wear Makeup for License Photo

by Jason St. Amand

National News Editor

Tuesday June 17, 2014

A gender non-conforming teen was told on March 3 that he was not allowed to wear makeup while he got his photo taken for his driver's license at the South Carolina Department of Motor Vehicles, the Huffington Post reports.

Chase Culpepper, 16, who wears makeup and androgynous or girls' clothing, went to the DMV in Anderson, S.C., in March with his mother to get his driver's license photo taken after he passed his driver's test, says a press release obtained by HuffPost. He was reportedly told he could not be photographed wearing makeup.

According to the release, DMV workers said that Culpepper did not look the way they believe a boy should with one employee calling his makeup a "disguise." The teen ended up removing his makeup and got his photo taken but was upset over the incident.

"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."

The Transgender Legal Defense & Education Fund sent a letter to the South Carolina DMV on June 9 on behalf of Culpepper, claiming his rights were violated.

"In the end, Chase was told that he could not wear makeup simply because boys typically do not wear makeup," the letter reads in part. "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."

The organization wants the DMV to allow the teen to retake his photo.

"I want the DMV to take my picture again, with makeup, so I can put this incident behind me," he said.

A rep for the DMV told HuffPost that probably won't happen, however. The rep said this is because of a 2009 clause added to the driver's license photo policy.

"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," the clause reads.

The rep added the DMV works with law enforcement on these issues.

"If it says male [on the license], that's what they're gonna look for. They expect the photo to be of a man," the rep told HuffPost. "If they stop somebody and they're dressed as a woman, they can straighten that out."