COLUMBIA, S.C. — A teenager in the heart of the Bible Belt has filed a lawsuit against his local Department of Motor Vehicles office for forcing him to remove his makeup before having his photo for his driver’s license taken.
Chase Culpepper, 16, and his mother Teresa are suing the South Carolina Department of Motor Vehicles (SCDMV) after he states he was told this past June by the Anderson DMV that he could not wear makeup for his photograph because he would not look like a male. The department forbids residents from “purposely altering his or her appearance so that the photo would misrepresent his or her identity.”
According to reports, Culpepper frequently wears makeup and women’s clothing, and considers himself to be “gender non-conforming.”
“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,” he told reporters this week. “And unfortunately, a lot of people like me have to go through this.”
Culpepper’s mother said that she also considered the SCDMV’s requirement to be unreasonable.
“[I was] angry, upset [and] heartbroken that the government was telling my son, ‘You must conform to our ideals of what a man should look like,'” she stated.
The Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund sent a letter to the SCDMV demanding that Culpepper be allowed to re-take his photograph with his make-up on, but as no response was received, the organization has now filed a federal legal complaint about the matter.
“It’s a violation of his personal rights and his right to free speech under the Constitution. It is not the role of the DMV or any government agency or employee to decide how men and women should look,” Executive Director Michael Silverman stated during a news conference on Tuesday. “Chase should be able to get a driver’s license without being subjected to sex discrimination.”
But some disagree and opine that Culpepper should simply follow the rules.
“The SCDMV is correct,” one commenter stated. “He is a man and needs to be represented/imaged as a man on his license! This is the law and that is it!”
“‘Gender nonconformist?’ I don’t recall ever seeing that as a choice on any official government forms,” another wrote. “It’s either male or female. That’s all there is, so pick one. You either have boy parts, which makes you a male, or you don’t, which makes you a female. It’s really quite simple if you actually think about it. Transvestite is a wardrobe choice, not a gender.”
“If this boy and his mother don’t like the rules, they can choose to not get a drivers license and walk everywhere. Last time I checked, driving was a privilege, not a right—not yet anyway,” they said.
Photo: Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund