A transgender teen who was forced to remove her makeup for a driver’s license photo at the DMV in South Carolina will now be allowed to wear makeup like any other girl. The change in policy comes with an apology as part of the settlement of a lawsuit filed last year by Chase Culpepper, a 17-year-old girl who was born with male anatomy. The decisions highlights the importance of fighting discrimination at DMV–whether directed at a transgender teen or anyone else.
Ms. Culpepper attempted to get her driver’s license photo taken last year, but was told she would have to remove her makeup first. DMV cited its policy, which did not mention transgender teens by name. Instead, the policy stated “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 apparently made no effort to explain how the makeup–which Ms. Culpepper wore every day–altered her appearance or misrepresented her identity.
New York’s Transgender Legal Defense & Education Fund stepped in to try to get DMV to change its position. When DMV refused, the Fund assisted Ms. Culpepper in filing a lawsuit. The policy “lets DMV employees arbitrarily decide how men and women need to look without regard for the rights of the people that they are supposed to serve,” said Michael Silverman, the fund’s executive director when the lawsuit was filed.
A transgender teen today has it better perhaps in California, where the prominence of entertainment industry phenoms like Transparent (which won two Golden Globes) and Orange is the New Black’s Laverne Cox (who won an Emmy) is closer to home. But DMV is not allowed to discriminate against anyone based on who they are. If you feel California’s DMV has unfairly denied you rights (whether or not you are a transgender teen), contact us and we’ll see if we can help you.