Male teen told to remove his makeup before license picture sues the DMV

Chase CulpepperChase Culpepper/Facebook

A male South Carolina teen has filed suit against the state's Department of Motor Vehicles on Tuesday, after being told to remove his makeup before taking his driver's license photo.

Chase Culpepper, 16, regularly wears cosmetics and either androgynous or traditionally female clothing, but the DMV alleged that the teen's makeup was against the department's policy, Yahoo News reports.

The incident occurred in March at the DMV office in Anderson, after Culpepper passed his driving test. A DMV employee told the teen to remove his makeup before a picture could be taken, and it took several attempts before the makeup was removed to the employee's satisfaction. Culpepper said the experience was humiliating.

"I want to be myself and have a driver's license photo that reflects that," he said at a news conference at the South Carolina State House on Tuesday.

His mother, Teresa Culpepper, alleges sex discrimination, and that her son's freedoms of speech and expression have been violated.

"As a mother, it broke my heart to see Chase being forced to be someone that he isn't," Teresa said. "Every time he pulls out his license, he is reminded of that, and that makes it even worse.

"I love my son just the way he is. The DMV should not have treated him this way."

The Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund (TLDEF) interceded on behalf of Culpepper, asking the DMV to allow the teen to take a photo more reflective of his daily look. The agency refused the request, however, citing DMV policy: "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 TLDEF is also representing Culpepper in his lawsuit, and called the DMV's actions unconstitutional.

"[The policy] lets DMV employees arbitrarily decide how men and women need to look without regard for the rights of the people that they are supposed to serve," TLDEF Executive Director Michael Silverman said.

"Chase should be allowed to get a driver's license without being subjected to sex discrimination."

The DMV has not publicly responded to the lawsuit.