West Virginia Trans Women Successfully Push DMV to Update ID Photo Policy

West Virginia Trans Women Successfully Push DMV to Update ID Photo Policy

West Virginia's Division of Motor Vehicles will now allow trans people to be photographed as they regularly appear, following two highly publicized complaints of discrimination filed last year by transgender women.

The original complainants, 52-year-old Trudy Kitzmiller and 45-year-old Kristen Skinner, have since been joined by three other trans women who all threatened to sue the DMV through the Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund. Each of the women alleged that they had faced harassment from staff at their various local DMVs, including several being referred to as "it," according to the Los Angeles Times.

The West Virginia DMV's updated policy now reads: "[applicants] will not be asked to remove or modify makeup, clothing, hair style or hairpiece(s)," in direct response to Kitzmiller and company stating that they were asked to take off jewelry, makeup, and wigs in order for their photo to reflect their "real" identity.

Kitzmiller, for one, shared that she left her Martinsburg DMV stunned in July of last year when she encountered such mistreatment, and explained to TLDEF that she arrived at the office with an appearance that reflected how she looks everyday — which is, she pointed out, the purpose of identification photos. She added:

“This is who I am — a transgender woman — and I have overcome many obstacles to become my true self. DMV staff not only denied me the right to appear in my license photo as myself, they used dehumanizing language to address me. The experience was humiliating and wrong."

Obtaining a photo ID that accurately reflects an individual's appearance is critical, TLDEF executive director Michael Silverman explained to the Times. Proper identification helps trans people obtain employment and employment benefits, which also effects housing, medical care, and many other aspects of an individual's life.

Resistance against outdated DMV policies and discrimination from staff has popped up nationwide, most memorably with the success of South Carolina teen Chase Culpepper. The 17-year-old trans girl, who was originally told to remove her everyday makeup because it was a "disguise," sued the DMV last September, and settled in April. She has since been allowed to take her driver's license photo wearing her regular daily makeup, while the South Carolina DMV apologized, and issued an updated policy that took effect in May. 

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