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South Carolina DMV tells gender non-conforming teen to remove makeup

By Melodi Smith, CNN
updated 8:43 AM EDT, Wed June 18, 2014
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • 'Gender non-conforming' teen says S.C. DMV employee asked him to take makeup off
  • DMV says it has a policy specifying requirements for photographs
  • Transgender rights advocacy group demands DMV allow teen to retake photo

(CNN) -- A transgender rights advocacy group says the South Carolina Department of Motor Vehicles restricted a teen's free speech rights by asking him to remove his makeup for a driver's license photo.

Sixteen-year-old Chase Culpepper went to take his driver's test in Anderson in March.

Chase considers himself "gender non-conforming," he told CNN affiliate WYFF. He regularly wears makeup and girl's clothes.

After passing his driver's test, Chase went to take his photo for his license. But an employee at the office asked him to remove his makeup.

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The employee told Chase he couldn't wear "a disguise" and didn't look "like a boy should," the teen told the affiliate.

CNN reached out to the state DMV and was told it had a policy specifying the requirements for the photograph.

"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," the policy says.

"That's been the policy since August of 2009," spokeswoman Beth Park said.

"Stage makeup is not acceptable because it can be used to alter appearance. Regular everyday makeup is accepted because it's used to highlight or hide blemishes," she said.

The Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund is now asking that the DMV allow Chase to retake his photo.

"His freedom to express his gender should not be restricted by the DMV staff," the fund's executive director, Michael Silverman, said.

"He is entitled to be who he is and to express that without interference from government actors."

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