Teen forced to take off make-up to take license photo

ANDERSON, SC -- Many people don't like their driver's license photograph and wish they could retake it. A South Carolina teenager says he wants to retake his license photo after Department of Motor Vehicle employees forced him to remove his make-up before taking the photo.

According to a release from the Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund, Chase Culpepper, 16, wears androgynous or women's clothing and make-up on a daily basis. In March, when Culpepper went to the DMV along with his mother to get his driver's license, he was told by DMV employees that he would not be able to take the photo while wearing the make-up, and that he did not look the way they thought a boy should look.

When pressed for a reason that he could not take the photo as he "normally appears," a DMV employee said Department of Motor Vehicle rules prohibited license photos taken in "disguise."

The teen complied, according to the release, removing as much of the make-up as he could in order to get his license.

"This is who I am and my clothing and make-up reflect that," Culpepper was quoted as saying in the release. "The Department of Motor Vehicles should not have forced me to remove my make-up 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 and Education Fund sent a formal letter to the South Carolina DMV dated June 9, insisting that the teen's freedom to express his gender was "restricted" by the DMV staff, and went on to request that Culpepper be permitted to re-take the license photo.

DMV representative Beth Parks told Greenville NBC station WYFF that the employees in the Anderson office followed state policy. She said that the policy was updated in August 2009 to say, " 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."


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