Teenage boy made to remove makeup to get license photo at DMV

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A teenager was told to take off his makeup before he was allowed to get his picture taken at the DMV. However, the 16-year-old said he was not in disguise. He was dressed as who he is.

Chase Culpepper, of Anderson, was told he needed to look more like a boy before he could receive his new license.

He said he was only dressed the way he does every day to school and to his job at McDonald’s. He doesn’t think he violated any rules and now he wants the DMV to let him re-take his license picture, wearing makeup.

Culpepper got his license in March but felt like he had been singled out and mistreated at the DMV for dressing differently.

He went to the Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund, and on June 9 the group contacted the DMV explaining that Culpepper’s rights had been violated.

South Carolina Department of Motor Vehicles spokesperson Beth Parks said it’s important for a license picture to portray who the person is legally.

“When this young man has to show his ID, his ID shows that he’s male. The card says he’s male [and therefore], he needs to look like a male,” said Parks.

She explained that if someone is transgender and changes their name and gender through the courts, the DMV will honor that change.

According to the South Carolina DMV’s photo policy, which was updated in 2009:

“At no time will an applicant be photographed when it appears that he or she is purposefully altering his or her appearance so that the photo would misrepresent his or her identity.”

Culpepper said he thinks people should be able to walk into the DMV and take a picture no matter what he or she is wearing.

“This is how I am every day. And if a police officer wanted to recognize how I am, then, he would want to see who I am in my picture as well,” said Culpepper.

His mom has stood behind him throughout and said she is appalled that her government is telling her son that he needs to conform to specific ideals of what a man should look like.

Culpepper hopes his story can be part of a movement toward change so that others don’t go through what he did.

Parks said that the staff at the DMV acted in accordance to policy. She said that Culpepper will not be allowed to take his photo with makeup because he needs to look like a male, as indicated on his legal identification.


    • Ksula

      I think you mistake profession for identity/gender expression. This is a guy who wears makeup and dresses a certain way everyday. He doesn’t do it for a job or anything, it is who he is and how he dresses. I think the reason why the DMV’s defense is weak is that photo ID’s are meant to be able to identify a person. Making him take off his makeup is obscuring his identity. I would understand if they asked for proof that this is his typical look, because then they would be clarifying that he is not trying to obscure his identity. But by forcing him to take off the makeup /because he is male and needs to look male/ and not forcing women who wear makeup to take it off, is a violation of their own policy. No we shouldn’t let people who dress up as clowns take their picture as a clown, but yes we should let people take their picture as people.

      • Darlene Brown

        Actually dressing as your job makes better sense than gender “expression” when getting a drivers license. An expression doesn’t define your gender anymore than dressing as your job does. This is about defining gender not expressing it. It’s also about following the laws. Change his gender or change the laws until then stop whining about the false representation of someone. We all have to define our gender when getting a drivers license and he should be no better than the rest of us.

  • Shannon Curtis

    Woman should have to pose in their natural state too. No dyed hair, make up, fake eyelashes, or extensions, as its not properly documenting what they truly look like.

  • Shannon Curtis

    Then women should have to pose in their natural state too. No dyed hair, make up, fake eyelashes, or extensions, as its not properly documenting what they truly look like.

    • Darlene Brown

      But males can still wear extensions and dyed hair this only applies to females, in your form of logic. A female wearing or even growing a mustache or beard would be asked to remove them and that would be fine with you!

  • Darlene Brown

    Why is this even news? Poor baby boy, a victim of the DMV. How dare they follow the law when his identity is false according to his birth certificate and the laws. Now females according to Shannon should be forced to look like males because a boy was forced to look like a male. Let’s make it illegal for females to wear makeup because a 16 year old boy is worried about how he looks without makeup.and the laws that decide he should look as his gender states is being cruel and unusual to him so everyone else must suffer as Shannon Curtis dictates. Life is so cruel to this boy as he has so little to worry about aside from what color eye shadow to wear for his license photo. Boo Hoo he will need psycho therapy for the rest of his life as he was told to look as his gender states and mommy never considered changing his gender for him oh wait mommy is waiting for taxpayers to pay for it. Excuse me if I feel no compassion toward this mental health “travesty”.

    • ciekey6

      Ok, first of all, it seems like you didn’t even read Shannon’s post because that’s not what she said AT ALL. She was stating that if men had to look a certain way in their pictures that it should be an across the board rule. I have short hair, does that mean that I should have to grow my hair out so I look like the traditional female for my DMV picture? When I got my license I was told to only take my picture wearing glasses if I wore them on a regular basis because they want the picture to look as close to my day to day self as possible. She didn’t say that it should be illegal for women to wear makeup, she stated that women shouldn’t be allowed to alter their appearances if the same didn’t apply for men as well. Second, it seems to me that you’re the one that’s going to need paycho therapy and have someone hold your hand while you learn some tolerance. Don’t like this news? Then don’t read it, it’s that simple. I’m sure you can find an article that promotes hate pretty easily to read instead.

    • Nativetxun

      Grow up and get over yourself! We all have to to do things we don’t particularly want to do. I had to take my glasses off for my DMV photo and I have worn glasses for over 50 years. I didn’t want to take them off, but it was the law so I followed the law and took them off. I didn’t whine and threaten to sue because my “rights” were violated and neither should he!

  • Gabrielle Moore

    That same rule applies to the DMV here in VA as well. You cannot alter your appearance in your photo. You have to look natural on your license. This is only my opinion on the subject, but I feel that the DMV was correct for what they did. I don’t even see why this is such a big deal to everyone. If you’re a male, you should look like on on your license, the same for a female, and in all honesty you shouldn’t wear make-up in your license photo at all. I’m not sure how it is for other states, but in VA our photos are in black and white, dark make-up makes you very hard to distinguish in your photo. Not like I said before, this is only my opinion! I realize a lot of people feel very different then me, and that’s ok because every one thinks differently.

  • Garrett

    We had similar arguments over muslim women having pictures taken, for their licenses, wanting to keep their faces covered, claiming religion and that it is always worn.

  • Ervin

    What’s up i am kavin, its my first occasion to commenting anyplace, when i
    read this article i thought i could also make comment due to this brilliant
    piece of writing.

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