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Teen requests license photo retake after gender stereotyping ordeal

Chase Culpepper, 16, sparks controversy when asked to take off makeup for driver’s license photo.
Chase Culpepper, 16, sparks controversy when asked to take off makeup for driver’s license photo.
Courtesy, Transgender Legal Defense & Education Fund

With the excitement of passing one’s driving test comes the anticipation of an event that every teen looks forward to: taking the photo for the license. Most teens are in and out quickly, armed with a new sense of freedom and a more-than-likely embarrassing picture to show their friends. ‘Putting your best face forward,’ however, has another meaning for South Carolina non gender-conforming teen, Chase Culpepper, 16.

The Daily News reports June 18, that Culpepper was made to take off his makeup on March 3 when he came in for his driver's license photo in Anderson, S.C. For Culpepper, his androgynous attire and makeup is a part of how he expresses himself, but when it came to taking the photo for his license, a Department of Motor Vehicle worker seemed to think Culpepper was in disguise - as makeup is not the traditional male attire.

A representative from the DMV told HuffPost this decision was based on a 2009 photo policy which states, "At no time can 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."

A letter to the South Carolina DMV from the Transgender Legal Defense & Education Fund’s (TLDEF) executive director Michael Silverman dated June 9, states that Culpepper was discriminated against and pushes for the teen to get a retake.

The document reads, “In the end, Chase was told that he could not wear makeup simply because boys typically do not wear makeup. It was not because his makeup acted as any type of

disguise of his identity. Sex stereotypes like this do not justify a government agency’s

restriction of constitutionally protected expression.”

Culpepper and his mother are considering legal action.

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