Why it’s important that this transgender teen just got an apology from her local DMV

Good news for South Carolina! After Chase Culpepper, a transgender teen, was denied the right to wear make-up in her drivers license photo, she filed a federal lawsuit. As a result, the South Carolina Department of Motor Vehicles changed its policy to allow those being photographed to look how they normally present themselves, regardless of the DMV’s expectations about how they should look.

Here’s how it went down: Chase arrived to have her photo taken, but the DMV insisted that she remove all her make-up. She was allowed to wear her pearl earrings, but they claimed that her make up counted as a “disguise.” This policy came from a 2009 rule that stopped any potential applicant from “purposely altering his or her appearance so that the photo would misrepresent his or her identity.” Chase, rightfully, disagreed. “My clothing and makeup reflect who I am,” she said. “From day one, all I wanted was to get a driver’s license that looks like me.”

So she took the case to court. She filed a lawsuit accusing the DMV’s rule of being too broad, allowing officials to make biased and arbitrary judgements. Officially, the DMV was charged with sex discrimination and violating Chase’s free speech.

Luckily, Chase won. The policy is officially being changed, and the DMV in question has promised to send her a written apology, as well as to implement training that teaches their employees how to address transgender and gender-nonconforming individuals.

After news spread about Chase’s case, the Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund, who represented her in the trial, started receiving similar pleas for support around the country. Hopefully this means that awareness has been raised about this important issue, and that other state’s DMVs will start following suit.

As far as South Carolina is concerned, the new policy starts in May, when Chase plans to retake her photo wearing the make-up that makes her feel beautiful.

(Image via here.)

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