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Gender-Nonconforming Teen Sues DMV That Denied License Photo

Gender-Nonconforming Teen Sues DMV That Denied License Photo


The South Carolina Department of Motor Vehicles is now facing legal action after allegedly discriminating against Chase Culpepper's gender expression.

Chase Culpepper, the South Carolina-based gender-nonconforming teen who was ordered by officials to remove his makeup and "look more like a boy" before DMV employees would take a photo for his driver's license, plans to file a federal lawsuit, reports the Associated Press.

The 16-year-old identifies as male and wears makeup and dresses in his everyday life, but when he arrived at the Department of Motor Vehicles in Anderson, S.C., to have his picture taken for his driver's license in March, he was informed his eyeshadow and lipstick constituted a prohibited "disguise."

Officials pointed to a policy that bars an applicant from "purposefully altering his or her appearance so that the photo would misrepresent his or her identity."

Yet, as the teen's mother, Teresa Culpepper, pointed out, "This is who he is. And for him to not have makeup on would be a disguise in itself."

In the wake of the incident his mother called "devastating," the Culpepper family sought the assistance of the Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund, and has now filed a discrimination lawsuit against the South Carolina DMV.

The lawsuit alleges that the DMV violated Chase's free speech rights in violation of state and federal constitutions, notes Pink News.

"The Department of Motor Vehicles should not have forced me to remove my makeup simply because my appearance does not meet their expectations of what a boy should look like," Chase said in a statement. "I just want the freedom to be who I am without the DMV telling me that I'm somehow not good enough."

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Mitch Kellaway