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Gender nonconforming teen sues South Carolina DMV that forced him to remove makeup for driver’s license photo
Chase Culpepper, 16, and his mother have filed a federal lawsuit against the South Carolina DMV for gender discrimination. Chase is gender nonconforming and wears makeup in his everyday life. (Chase identifies as male and uses male pronouns.)
In March 2014, Chase passed his driver’s license test. However, when he went to have his photo taken for his license, a DMV employee told him he had to remove his makeup. The employee told Chase he “didn’t look like a boy should” and that he wasn’t allowed to wear “a disguise.”
Chase was forced to remove his makeup in order to get his license.
The DMV claims the employee was following a policy dating from 2009, which 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.”
DMV spokesperson Beth Parks said, “Stage makeup is not acceptable because it can be used to alter appearance. Regular everyday makeup is accepted because it’s used to highlight or hide blemishes.”
Chase’s lawsuit argues that this policy is being interpreted too broadly.
**According to my law studies so far, his argument is correct. This was gender based discrimination. Chase was discriminated against because he was not conforming to the employee’s and the DMV’s personal ideas of what a “boy” should look like. Namely, he was told he couldn’t get a driver’s license unless he removed makeup. Cis women are not subjected to any sort of no-makeup policy.
**The photo provided is a screencap I took from the local news story about this case. I thought it was extremely important to show that the DMV’s claim that “stage makeup is not allowed” does not apply here. The screencap shows what Chase looked like with his makeup on for the photo (on the left) and what he looked like after being forced to remove the makeup (on the right). He was wearing natural-looking makeup, and he looked the same either way. The makeup did not hide who he was at all. Calling it “stage makeup” is inaccurate.
The Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund is assisting Chase. The lawsuit is not asking for financial compensation, but rather requests a change to the DMV policy and requests that Chase be allowed to retake his photo wearing his makeup.
My citations won’t hyperlink for some reason. Here they are:
Thanks for sharing this story, anon! I hadn’t heard anything about it.
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