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Teen sues S.C. for barring his use of makeup in photo ID

Chase Culpepper said that being ordered by officials to remove what they called a disguise was degrading.

REUTERS

Chase Culpepper said that being ordered by officials to remove what they called a disguise was degrading.

COLUMBIA, S.C. — A 16-year-old in South Carolina sued the state’s Department of Motor Vehicles on Tuesday because the agency will not allow him to take a driver’s license photo wearing makeup.

Chase Culpepper regularly wears makeup and either androgynous or women’s clothing. During a news conference Tuesday at the State House in Columbia, he told reporters that being ordered by officials to remove what they called a disguise was degrading.

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‘‘I left the DMV feeling humiliated,’’ Culpepper said. ‘‘I want to be myself and have a driver’s license photo that reflects that.’’

Culpepper went to a DMV office in March to get a driver’s license. That day, as he does every day, Culpepper wore makeup and dressed as a woman.

But the agency would not let him wear makeup for a photo because of a policy that bans license pictures when someone is purposefully altering their appearance. After several attempts, Culpepper said, the makeup was removed, and a license photo was ultimately taken.

In June, a New York group known as the Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund wrote to DMV officials, asking that Culpepper be allowed to have a new photo taken that is more reflective of the teen’s daily attire. The agency refused, citing DMV policy saying that ‘‘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.’’

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