1. Chase Culpepper, a gender non-conforming 16-year-old from South Carolina, was excited to finally get his license after passing his driver’s test.
2. But when the teen and his mother went to take his license picture, the DMV in Anderson, S.C., told him he would have to remove his makeup first.
Chase wears makeup and androgynous or women’s clothing.
3. The DMV employee told Chase that he “could not wear a disguise” to take his license picture, he told WYFF4, because he “did not look like a boy.”
“According to her, me wearing makeup would be a disguise,” he recalled.
4. Although Chase ultimately took his makeup off for the photo (bottom right), he said he now regrets changing his look and wants to retake his photo, which the agency will not allow.
“It was very degrading and I felt I was in shock,” he said.
5. Chase’s mom, Teresa Culpepper, said the action was “very hurtful.” “He was absolutely devastated. That’s who he is 24/7,” she said.
6. DMV spokeswoman Beth Parks told WYFF4 that the employees at the Anderson DMV correctly followed their policy, which says applicants can’t alter their appearance to “misrepresent his or her identity.”
7. The Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund has taken up Chase’s case, and is calling on the SCDMV to allow the teen to retake his picture.
“Chase’s freedom to express his gender should not be restricted by DMV staff,” TLDEF executive director Michael Silverman wrote in a letter to the DMV.
He added, “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.”