Transgender Lawsuit: Teen Forced To Remove Makeup At DMV

A transgender activist group is filing a lawsuit against a South Carolina DMV on behalf of a teen who was told to remove his makeup before a driver license photograph was taken.

The Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund or TLDEF is representing Chase Culpepper, 16, in a suit to be filed against the state’s Department of Motor Vehicles. The federal complaint alleges that the DMV willfully violated the teenager’s right to freedom of expression by forcing him to remove makeup that he applies daily, according to a WYFF4 news report.

Although Culpepper has not undergone gender reassignment surgery, he identifies with being a girl. As such, he considers himself gender-non-conforming, as many LGBT members often do.

The transgender organization believes the actions by the DMV office constitutes sexual orientation discrimination, which is a clear violation of the teen’s civil rights inherently protected by federal laws.

Legal documents say that on March 3, the boy and his mother went to the Anderson Office of Motor Vehicles for the expressed purpose of obtaining a physical driver license card; he had already passed the written and driving portion of process.

However, a clerk at the DMV office told the South Carolina teen he could not have his picture taken unless he removed the makeup he was wearing at the time. They said it made him look like a girl, instead of a boy.

It was wrong to be taken aside and told how I look doesn’t fit with traditional gender roles and how I look is not even good enough to take a driver’s license picture taken. And unfortunately, a lot of people like me have to go through this.”

His mom weighed in.

They said he was wearing a disguise. It was very hurtful. He was absolutely devastated. That’s who he is 24/7.”

The clerk, Beth Parks, countered by saying the DMV employee followed protocol, which suggests they did not believe the plaintiff was transgender. Apparently, a 2009 policy was updated to put the current policy in place at the local office.

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.”

Executive Director Michael Silverman of TLDEF made a statement that contradicted or brought into focus the scope of the seemingly discriminatory policy the transgender organization takes issue with.

It is not the role of the DMV or any government agency or employee to decide how men and women should look. Chase should be able to get a driver’s license without being subjected to sex discrimination.”

In the end, Culpepper removed his makeup in order to get the driver license. However, the lawsuit, which is to be filed this week, will ask a judge or magistrate to recognize that the discriminatory actions by the DMV office were biased, based on gender. As a consequence, unspecified damages are being sought to protect transgenders going forward.

[Image via: WYFF4]