Though states across the country are making lots of progress on ensuring transgender rights, it turns out that in many places there's still a lot of work to be done on people who are simply gender non-conforming. This spring, 16-year-old Chase Culpepper went to the DMV to get his driver's license and was told to remove his makeup or else his photo would not be taken. Because everyone knows boys don't really wear makeup so we can't have such a thing in a driver's license photo.
Culpepper identifies as a boy, the gender he was assigned at birth, but also enjoys wearing makeup and either gender-neutral or women's clothing every day. But employees at the DMV in Anderson, South Carolina told Culpepper to remove his makeup for the photo because it was against regulations for a person to 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." In other words, wearing makeup as a male must be part of some elaborate disguise. Well that's a lovely, sexist double-standard.
Although the DMV stated that they are happy to update a person's driver's license to reflect any legal changes to their name or gender, the issue here is that Culpepper does identify as a boy. He just doesn't conform to expectations about his gender. He enjoys wearing makeup, so taking his photo with the makeup would actually be a better representation of what he looks like than taking his picture without it. But tellingly, the DMV seemingly could not conceive of makeup being part of a boy's normal appearance, apparently convinced it was a sort of disguise.
It's long been observed that when it comes to gender expression, there's a definite double standard that allows girls a lot more freedom than boys. Girls can wear pants, but boys can't wear dresses; girls can play sports, but boys can't play dress-up, at least not in the eyes of society. Because, I guess, everyone understand why girls would want to be boys, but it's inconceivable that a boy would ever want to be anything like a girl. And that's both sexist and unfortunate, because boys have just as much right to experiment with their gender expression as girls. If a boy wants to wear makeup, he should feel free to go ahead.
On the day he took his picture, Culpepper did agree to remove the makeup, but says he now regrets that decision. He's asking to retake the picture with the makeup on, and he's working with the Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund to make it happen.
“This is who I am and my clothing and makeup reflect that,” he said in a release. “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.”