Teen made to remove makeup to get license photo at DMV

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ANDERSON, SC (WHNS) — An Upstate 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.

By Dana Wachter


  • Linda Oliver

    Why not add a gender category? There should be Male, Female, Transgender M-F (male to female), and Transgender F-M (female to male). That way there’s a category for them while in transition. Sounds like a simple fix to me.


      Or just get your license picture as a male, because that is what you are, a male. As they say, if he goes through the courts and legally changes it, then he can wear all the makeup he wants to wear. This is utter and complete unbridled narcissism, and its whats wrong with this country.

    • Jackie

      Just because he likes to wear make up doesn’t mean he wants to identify as a female. Maybe people should stop expecting certain things of a particular gender. Sounds like a simple fix to me.

      • Linda Oliver

        Guess you didn’t watch the video in addition to reading what was written. In the video the teen says he’s undecided about what he is. Therefore he’s in transition until he decides if he wants to be female or remain male.

    • Erica

      I was a manager for BMV, the choice is male, female and unknown. People from other countries get the respect to wear something due to their religion. We have had to make all guys leave the BMV and go in hallway to take a picture of women because their religion is no other man can see them. Which I don’t agree because we do not get a choice. We have do.e transgender Id’s and show them the respect they deserve! From Ohio

  • Becca Johnson

    By the wording in their own document they would need to apply the rule without bias.
    “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.”
    It specifically states ‘he or she’, so any female wearing makeup could altering their appearance as well. They are opening themselves up to a lawsuit. Just because you work for a government affiliated agency does not mean you are above the law and can interpret wording to force your own prejudice!

    • Edward

      Becca the statement you quoted says “misrepresent his or her identity” yet you state that any female wearing makeup could be altering their appearance. Misrepresenting yor identity and altering your appearance are in fact two seperate issues. You should get your facts straights before accusing others of interepreting wording to force their own prejudices

  • Kim

    This kind of behavior is unexceptable. Like the comment above females “alter” their look by wearing makeup, fake color contacts & eyelashes etc. I look nothing like I do in my drivers license picture half of the time. I’m a hairstylist & in my pic I’m a blonde but now I’m a redhead. I change my look every season. People there are bigger things to worry about than this rubbish. My son gets his license in a few months & IF this happens to him I will be hiring an attorney!!!

  • cathy

    oh, it’s just a crazy mixed up world and it is going to get worse!!!! if I, as a woman, go have my license pic taken and they see a legal female name and I get pulled over my hair may not be the same color or maybe I have make up on or not, the police officer makes an assumption that as a woman my hair or makeup may be different. even if I were lesbian my hair may be short, no make up and full of tats, but a female. a man with a legal male name has his photo taken as a woman is cause for concern. how does the officer know that this man on the license is the woman in the car. how does the liquor store clerk know that the woman handing the ID with a man’s name is that person?? now you can say then that a photo for those who are male/female who want to be female/male should have two photos on their license. their straight photo and their alter personality photo. its’ just a crazy mixed up world and it is going to get worse!!!!

    • Richard Hunt

      Cathy, as I read it, you are assuming that there are only “MALE” and FEMALE” names. What if this teen’s name is “PAT”? Is that a male or a female name? What about “CARROLL”? Male or female? “JEAN”, “RIKKI”, “BOBBY”, etc. All could be either male or female names.

  • krystal

    What happens when he gets pulled over looking like a female and he pulls out his id that looks male

  • Bosephus

    “Culpepper got his license in March but felt like he had been singled out and mistreated at the DMV for dressing differently.” – Um, he/she sort of singled himself out for showing up and applying for a license as a man but dressed like a woman. Everyone wants to be special and make a big deal about if their feelings are hurt in the most minute way. How dare the DMV ask someone who is biologically and technically a man ask him to appear as on in his government issued ID. This is a lifestyle he chooses special accommodations shouldn’t be made for him. If a week later this guy went out and committed a crime and his ID helped throw the police off people would be enraged that the DMV let him take pictures as a woman when in fact he is a man.

  • James

    Deal with it people! Geez… so what do you want? Take the picture as a girl, have male on the license and then the Police have to ask “HIM” to drop his pants to show that he really is a male??? Then you’ll want to sue the Police for seeing his private parts. Make a choice! You can’t have it all. I think the DMV did exactly what they should have. You’ll have people going in with all kinds of crap on to disguise themselves if this changes… this person may be legit, but all of the others wouldn’t be so honest.

  • Richard Hunt

    So, a woman that has dyed her hair should be refused a licence? What about wearing a push-up bra? How about make-up?, Maybe wearing a wig? Colored contact lenses?

    People can change their appearance at a moments notice. The ID should have been issued with the person looking the way they do on a regular basis.

  • Lav

    Yes, people change their hair color and sometimes eye color depending on the contacts; however, the issue at hand is the gender. I have no problem with this teen dressing the way he wants, but when it comes to government ID’s there have to be certain rules in place to help people try and identify the correct identity of the alleged person. This teen can make the necessary changes so the ID can be updated. In the future, maybe they will have 2 photos and a male-female option (vice versa), but you can’t just walk into a dmv and decide you’re another gender.

    • Richard Hunt

      So, what is the point of having an ID look like something totally different than what you normally look like? The DMV didn’t say that the problem was that that he wanted the licence to state that he was “female”. The problem was that, in the mind of the DMV, he didn’t look like the stereotype of what a “male” should look like.

  • Tom

    I find it sad when a person is so confused to not know what gender they are. There would be a lot less confusion if Guys would just be guys and girls be girls. after all the bottom line is we all either have the Y chromosome or we don’t.

    • Richard Hunt

      Must be nice to live in the black and white world in which you live in. Everything is either yes or no, up or down, in or out. But in the real world, there is an amazing thing called “IN BETWEEN”! Deal with it.

  • oldglasslady

    I would understand if he was wearing KISS makeup or Team colors paint – were you can’t see his face, but regular makeup – sounds like a conservative agenda to me.

  • amanda

    sorry he sounds like ine of those ppl who goes into businesses looking to start problems until he legally makes the transition his license says male therefore he should look like a male so petty

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