A South Carolina teen is fighting for the chance to retake his driver’s license photo after allegedly being forced to alter his appearance to please the intolerant staff at the Anderson Department of Motor Vehicles.
Chase Culpepper, a 16-year-old gender non-conforming male who bears a stunning resemblance to Emily VanCamp, tells WYFF that when he appeared at the DMV on March 3 to receive his very first driver’s license, he was forced to remove his makeup because employees considered it a “disguise.”
Culpepper, who appears with his supportive mother in the local news interview here, says he wears dresses and makeup every day. This, according to the DMV, is not “the way a boy should look.”
“This is who I am and my clothing and makeup reflect that,” Culpepper said. “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. I just want the freedom to be who I am without the DMV telling me that I’m somehow not good enough.”
Though he removed his makeup in order to take the photo and receive his license, Culpepper says the event was mortifying. He’s currently fighting with alongside the Transgednder Legal Defense & Edutcation Fund to have his rights restored.
“Chase’s freedom to express his gender should not be restricted by DMV staff,” said TLDEF Executive Director Michael Silverman in a letter to the DMV. “He is entitled to be who he is and to express that without interference from government actors. Forcing Chase to remove his makeup prior to taking his driver’s license photo restricts his free speech rights in violation of state and federal constitutional protections.”
Beth Parks, a representative from the DMV, has offered the following explanation as the state’s only statement:
“At no time will an applicant be photographed when it appears that he or she is purposely altering his or her appearance so that the photo would misrepresent his or her identity.”
“It was very hurtful, Culpepper’s mother told WYFF. “He was absolutely devastated. That’s who he is 24/7.” The family is considering taking legal action.