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S.C. DMV being sued by gender non-conforming teen
September 5, 2014 7:12 AM   Subscribe

When 16-year-old Chase Culpepper went to a South Carolina DMV to get his driver’s license in March, he was told to remove his makeup before officials would take his photo. (Buzzfeed)

"Culpepper says on March 3 he went to the DMV office in Anderson with his mother to get his driver’s license. He said he had already passed the test and was told he could not have his picture taken while wearing make-up because he did not look the way a boy should." (Warning: autoplay video)

The legal complaint at transgenderlegal.com (pdf)
posted by The Almighty Mommy Goddess (69 comments total) 18 users marked this as a favorite

 
Honestly, this is one of the dumbest things ever (on behalf of the DMV, not Chase or TLDEF). I'm actually glad in a sense that Chase identifies a gender non-conforming boy. It broadens people's understanding, I think, that gender is a spectrum of identity, and not just a cis/trans thing.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 7:20 AM on September 5 [9 favorites]


For fuck's sake, let the kid look like what the kid looks like. Isn't that the point of an ID photo?
posted by cjorgensen at 7:25 AM on September 5 [21 favorites]


Destroy Gender Now
posted by liliillliil at 7:29 AM on September 5 [8 favorites]


Would you ask Mitt Romney about how his grandchild might affect his desire to run for president?

Would you ask a male employee to wear heels?

Would you ask a guy walking down the street to smile?

Would you ask a 16 year old girl to remove her makeup before the picture?


Can't wait for a day when none of these questions have to get asked anymore.
posted by phunniemee at 7:29 AM on September 5 [23 favorites]


He looks so great, I want him to start doing makeup tutorial videos.
posted by poffin boffin at 7:30 AM on September 5 [9 favorites]


Incredible that I can walk to a Creedence Queerwater Revival show, and pick up FM radio from this place in SC all at once.
posted by oceanjesse at 7:31 AM on September 5 [1 favorite]


Oh Anderson so much to answer for.
posted by octobersurprise at 7:32 AM on September 5 [1 favorite]


I don't actually think this is as bad on the DMV's part as people make it out to be. From the DMV's perspective, there is a legitimate concern (however misguided) that a person might deliberately dress to misrepresent their gender, for whatever reason. One possibility is that a person dresses as another person to provide a fake ID for the second person - it's far-fetched, but I imagine that's the sort of scenario the DMV wants to avoid.

(Granted, this is a bit of a devil's advocate argument - but it's important to recognize that "the DMV is a bunch of hideous transphobes" is not the only possible explanation for their actions.)
posted by LSK at 7:39 AM on September 5 [13 favorites]


I wonder what kind of rules they have for how much makeup is acceptable. For any gender. The whole point of the photo on the ID is so you can recognize the person, which is why they won't let you wear sunglasses in your pic. I would imagine if you came in with your face covered in hunting-style camo facepaint or clown makeup, they'd probably turn you away, so I can imagine they could turn away men or women if they had so much makeup on that it hid your features.

Not that they're justified here. This case is just stupid (on the part of the DMV.)
posted by nushustu at 7:40 AM on September 5 [2 favorites]


One possibility is that a person dresses as another person to provide a fake ID for the second person

For all the hot commodity that a fake ID saying that you're 16 is.
posted by phunniemee at 7:41 AM on September 5 [54 favorites]


(Granted, this is a bit of a devil's advocate argument - but it's important to recognize that "the DMV is a bunch of hideous transphobes" is not the only possible explanation for their actions.)

The thing is, I'd only trust this argument if there have been actual real documented cases of cispeople going to the DMV and pretending to be gender nonconforming in order to make a fake ID for someone else. Unless actual evidence of that exists, it seems wise to throw this argument on the same pile as the old chestnut about how transwomen shouldn't use women's restrooms because hypothetically some straight cisman somewhere might have thought about pretending to be trans in order to sneak into a women's room.

It is, um, let's say vastly more likely that a given person is actually swear to god gender nonconforming than that they're running a pointless and pointlessly elaborate scam for funsies.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 7:48 AM on September 5 [28 favorites]


What I want to know is, how many cases are there of ciswomen being asked to remove their makeup before getting a photo ID?
posted by hippybear at 7:53 AM on September 5 [28 favorites]


I'd only trust this argument if there have been actual real documented cases of cispeople going to the DMV and pretending to be gender nonconforming in order to make a fake ID

I'm sure there's been no such thing. I'm less sure they haven't had (or wouldn't have) people in camo facepaint, or Juggalo makeup. And I agree the DMV has a legit interest in not allowing that.

But the thing is, that I'm sure the DMV is entirely able to make the distinction between clown makeup and eyeliner. They just don't want to.
posted by tyllwin at 7:54 AM on September 5 [5 favorites]


I was one of those goth freakoids in high school. I once got pulled over with my hair in hard spikes, false eyelash on my left lower lid (Ala Clockwork Orange), mascara and eyeliner on, and I might have been wearing lipstick. My nails were paired black and I had on a punk rock leather with chains and spikes. I can guarantee I looked nothing like my driver photo. I do remember I put unicorn stickers on my license. The cops were more concerned about that than they were by the fact there was really no effective way to know it was me in the photo just by looking.
posted by cjorgensen at 7:57 AM on September 5 [18 favorites]


From the DMV's perspective, there is a legitimate concern (however misguided) that a person might deliberately dress to misrepresent their gender, for whatever reason.

If the claim were that the DMV believed that the makeup was put on specifically for the photo session, just to screw with them, I would agree that this was a defense. (Not a very good defense, but a defense.) But this possibility is dismantled in the actual complaint, wherein the DMV has granted that this was C.C.'s everyday makeup.
76. Rather than suggest that C. C. wore stage makeup on March 3, 2014, Parks acknowledged that he wore everyday makeup on a regular basis. She specifically stated that, “I understand that he does wear makeup all the time, and for women, regular everyday make up is acceptable, but it is unusual to see it on a young man.”

77. Parks stated, “[i]f your name is David Jones and it says you are a male, then you should look like a male.”
posted by Shmuel510 at 7:58 AM on September 5 [18 favorites]


But the thing is, that I'm sure the DMV is entirely able to make the distinction between clown makeup and eyeliner. They just don't want to.

I would hope so, but this is the DMV - the go-to example for bureaucratic ineptitude. So, you never know. Maybe the person taking the picture or the employees in the office that day had a narrow interpretation of the rules for makeup in photos. Or worse, maybe they didn't feel safe in using common sense over strict abiding by some DMV handbook.
posted by boubelium at 8:00 AM on September 5 [1 favorite]


Yeah, the DMV's job is not to decide what a male or female is supposed to look like. The DMV's job is to make sure that the picture on your driver's license looks like you.
posted by Ben Trismegistus at 8:01 AM on September 5 [14 favorites]


The DMV's job is to make sure that the picture on your driver's license looks like you.

Ha! I don't look that bad...
posted by Alexandra Kitty at 8:04 AM on September 5 [8 favorites]


it's important to recognize that "the DMV is a bunch of hideous transphobes" is not the only possible explanation for their actions.

I have to agree. A DMV line is not where anyone expects to find the most progressive set of options for self expression or empowerment, right? Almost by definition it's an exercise in objective pigeonholing. There's no other way to generate an objectively usable ID. You're always going to run into problems trying to express subjective concepts (like gender) in an objective system. For example, your driver's license lists your eye color, not your favorite color. And that's understandable. If you're looking for a lost little boy in a mall, you broadcast his height and hair color, not his favorite cereal and the fact that he's afraid of spiders.

I had a male friend in high school who wore makeup every single day, as part of his regular appearance (though I think it was more of a punk thing of his own design, rather than a gender thing). Six months later, he didn't wear the makeup at all anymore. How would the average DMV clerk know how to gauge this? The practical limitations of the ID system are: (1) one single photo is expected to do the technically impossible job of representing your appearance for multiple years, and (2) unless our economic models change drastically, you just don't see Nobel laureates manning the DMV counter. Sounds like this kid was not believed when he should have been. But I can see all sorts of ways this could have played out without any malice.

I wonder what kind of rules they have for how much makeup is acceptable.

I think that question illustrates the point. One would assume the "Gene Simmons" look from KISS would constitute too much makeup. But where's the line? Until we create a makeup-level-evaluating robot, the first-level decision has to fall to the person manning the DMV counter. There are all manner of situations where we still rely on fallible human umpires. We're never going to agree with every call. And I'm glad this kid has the ability to challenge the ruling.
posted by azaner at 8:05 AM on September 5 [5 favorites]


Until we create a makeup-level-evaluating robot, the first-level decision has to fall to the person manning the DMV counter.

But the "level" is applied in a discriminatory fashion. I would hazard to guess that the DMV clerk has never turned away a (cis) female for too much (ordinary) makeup, even if she looked like Tammy Faye Bakker. "No makeup" only gets applied to non-conforming people, and that's the issue.
posted by tyllwin at 8:10 AM on September 5 [13 favorites]


I had a male friend in high school who wore makeup every single day, as part of his regular appearance (though I think it was more of a punk thing of his own design, rather than a gender thing). Six months later, he didn't wear the makeup at all anymore. How would the average DMV clerk know how to gauge this? The practical limitations of the ID system are: (1) one single photo is expected to do the technically impossible job of representing your appearance for multiple years, and (2) unless our economic models change drastically, you just don't see Nobel laureates manning the DMV counter. Sounds like this kid was not believed when he should have been. But I can see all sorts of ways this could have played out without any malice.

The opposite is equally true. A boy could not wear makeup at all, and then begin wearing makeup shortly after getting the license photo. I could grow a beard. I could shave a beard. I could cut all my hair off, grow it out, or dye it a different color. I could lose or gain 100 pounds. Lots of people's appearance change regularly, so it's unrealistic to suggest that your driver's license photo is supposed to look like you for however many years. It's just supposed to look like you right now.
posted by Ben Trismegistus at 8:13 AM on September 5 [16 favorites]


"Take that makeup off - you have to look as terrible as everybody else in your license photo!"
posted by The Underpants Monster at 8:14 AM on September 5 [4 favorites]


I would hazard to guess that the DMV clerk has never turned away a (cis) female for too much (ordinary) makeup, even if she looked like Tammy Faye Bakker.

I am certain that the DMV clerk in Anderson, SC has seen that but plenty.
posted by octobersurprise at 8:15 AM on September 5 [7 favorites]


What I want to know is, how many cases are there of ciswomen being asked to remove their makeup before getting a photo ID?

Or! How many are there of cis women being required to put makeup on? If makeup/no makeup is some required part of "how to tell what gender someone is," and if people who wear makeup are assumed to be women, then....women who aren't wearing makeup for their DMV photos must surely be trying to misrepresent their gender!
posted by rtha at 8:16 AM on September 5 [19 favorites]


I had a male friend in high school who wore makeup every single day, as part of his regular appearance (though I think it was more of a punk thing of his own design, rather than a gender thing). Six months later, he didn't wear the makeup at all anymore. How would the average DMV clerk know how to gauge this?

I have a lengthy beard. Like, it's at terminal length now, after 2 years of growing out, somewhere just below my nipple line.

When I went in to get my drivers license renewed recently, I didn't look much of anything like my previous photo, because I hadn't grown my beard out then. (I mean, I had a beard, but it was kept trimmed short.)

The only request they made to me about my photo is that I take off my glasses, which seems odd to me because my focal point without my glasses is literally (I'm using this word correctly here) 4" from the bridge of my nose, so I'm non-functional without them.

Now, in this state, they ask you to get a new license every 5 years.

It would be entirely conceivable for someone to spend 5 years growing out a lengthy beard, go in for a DMV photo, and then shave off the beard the very next day. HOW WOULD THE AVERAGE DMV CLERK KNOW HOW TO GAUGE THIS???

Well, the answer is, they don't have to, because growing a beard is a "guy thing" to do. A DMV clerk would never ask a beard-growing individual to trim or shave off his beard before a photo, even though having a beard and then suddenly NOT having a beard is one of the easiest ways to change one's appearance if you're a beard-growing sort.

Using excuses like "well, he was wearing makeup that day, but he might not wear makeup in the future, therefore he needs to take off his makeup for his DMV photo" is utter bullshit.
posted by hippybear at 8:20 AM on September 5 [28 favorites]


I've been asked, at different DMV visits to remove my glasses (which I wear whenever conscious) because they weren't "women's glasses", my tie and suit jacket (which I wore every work day) because they "weren't female attire", and my (non-leather!) motorcycle jacket because it "wasn't female clothing". They never objected to any hair color or colored contacts behind my glasses, even though those are ID database entries.

OTOH, a few years ago at a Seattle area WA State DMV the clerk casually asked if I wanted my license gender changed to match my presentation... No paperwork (which is required) but no assumption of a problem, either. I declined, but I hope this is the futire trend.
posted by Dreidl at 8:22 AM on September 5 [26 favorites]


He's done a good job with the make-up, although he is young and has good skin; I wonder where he learnt it: online, practice, or did his mum help him with this?

Also, stupid lousy DMV.
posted by marienbad at 8:23 AM on September 5 [2 favorites]


This is dumb. I wish we'd never have subjected ourselves to government licensure/ID in the first place. If it were up to driving clubs, good road associations, insurers, etc., our driver licenses could just demonstrate what their ostensible purpose is: that we're qualified to drive a motor vehicle. Instead, they now serve as 'your papers, comrade.' What should be merely identification of the fact that we can drive is now our identity, so you get nonsense like this.
posted by resurrexit at 8:23 AM on September 5 [4 favorites]


I've been asked, at different DMV visits to remove my glasses (which I wear whenever conscious) because they weren't "women's glasses", my tie and suit jacket (which I wore every work day) because they "weren't female attire", and my (non-leather!) motorcycle jacket because it "wasn't female clothing". They never objected to any hair color or colored contacts behind my glasses, even though those are ID database entries.

Eff those people.

OTOH, a few years ago at a Seattle area WA State DMV the clerk casually asked if I wanted my license gender changed to match my presentation... No paperwork (which is required) but no assumption of a problem, either. I declined, but I hope this is the futire trend.

Wow, how cool!
posted by Ben Trismegistus at 8:31 AM on September 5 [1 favorite]


The only request they made to me about my photo is that I take off my glasses, which seems odd to me because my focal point without my glasses is literally (I'm using this word correctly here) 4" from the bridge of my nose, so I'm non-functional without them.

Weird - when I started needing glasses, they told me I had to get a new picture with the glasses ON!
posted by The Underpants Monster at 8:33 AM on September 5


What should be merely identification of the fact that we can drive is now our identity, so you get nonsense like this.

Stipulating that this is obviously transphobic bullshit, how would you propose that licences be issued if they don't also serve as guaranteed identification? The whole point is that they demonstrate that you can drive, and thus they need to prove that you are you. Who other than government could possibly back such a thing in a believable way?
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 8:57 AM on September 5 [8 favorites]


Re: glasses -- I have brrn wearing glasses pretty much continuously for the last half century or so, but last time, for the first time, I was told to take them off for my DL picture (Texas). I'm told it has to do with making your official government photo more accessible for facial recognition software, but if it can be confused by the presence of glasses, it's never going to be able to ID me.
posted by pbrim at 9:07 AM on September 5 [3 favorites]


>OTOH, a few years ago at a Seattle area WA State DMV the clerk casually asked if I wanted my license gender changed to match my presentation...

WA licenses have a gender designation? That's pretty darn progressive.
posted by BurntHombre at 9:16 AM on September 5


Yeah, I never got the point of taking off my glasses for a picture that's going on a piece of plastic that says that I must wear corrective lenses when using that piece of plastic.
posted by Etrigan at 9:20 AM on September 5 [5 favorites]


When my son got his passport, he had long dyed black hair. When he went looking for a summer job, he made the decision to let his hair go back to its natural color and cut it short. He gets second looks when we go through customs because of the difference, but other than that, it really isn't an issue because the basic facial structure--which is pretty much what modern day photo recognition techniques use to identify people anyway--didn't change.

Seriously, I'm in the frickin' South, where the assumption is we are all backwards hicks, and if any official had said to him, when his hair was long, "This isn't what a man looks like," I would have been livid. Take the picture and MYOB already.
posted by misha at 9:22 AM on September 5 [2 favorites]


Anyone have a copy of Tammy Fay baker's license photo? Or this one
posted by Gungho at 9:35 AM on September 5


A little off topic, but also about the SC DMV. A friend of mine was recently filling out a speeding ticket form and faced the following choices: Miss, Mrs. Mr. Dr. No Ms at all. So if the DMV hasn't gotten around to the 1970s yet, I imagine dealing with gender nonconformity is a quite a ways off.
posted by Measured Out my Life in Coffeespoons at 9:36 AM on September 5 [3 favorites]


What I want to know is, how many cases are there of ciswomen being asked to remove their makeup before getting a photo ID?

I was, but only when my photo ID was for the NSA.
posted by corb at 9:41 AM on September 5 [2 favorites]


Entirely by accident, we recently delivered a piece of software that allows a theoretically unlimited number of genders (up to the limit of the database, which is several million records). We even threw in a code table management tool, which (among other things) meant that the owners could add genders as they pleased. I wonder if they ever used it?

"By accident" = all the code tables are open-ended by design, and it didn't occur to us to artificially restrict the Gender table to a certain number of genders. And it was frankly easier NOT to restrict gender.
posted by Mogur at 9:43 AM on September 5 [2 favorites]


how would you propose that licences be issued if they don't also serve as guaranteed identification?

They used to not have photos at all - they were just pieces of paper. There was a physical description (height, eye color, etc.). According to this, Vermont didn't require them as recently as the 90s. The NYT history of the NY license indicates that licenses for chauffeurs required photos beginning in the early 1900s, but for ordinary people, there were no photos until maybe the early 70s.
posted by rtha at 9:44 AM on September 5 [2 favorites]


Outside of a car rental, I'm hard pressed to think of a time when my credit card + PIN weren't enough.
posted by Mogur at 9:49 AM on September 5


Okay. But they have photos now, which are a more guaranteed way to ensure you're you, yeah? I mean, no photo = what's to stop an inveterate drunk driver who's had their licence pulled from borrowing a similarly-described friend's?
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 9:49 AM on September 5


This is such bullshit from the DMV. Chase is wearing some of the best "no-makeup makeup" I've seen. It's entirely possible to do everyday makeup that radically changes your appearance without looking over-the-top (here's one example), but there's no way anyone would be unable to recognize made-up Chase in these pictures when compared to bare-faced Chase.
posted by nicebookrack at 9:50 AM on September 5 [7 favorites]


I got scolded REPEATEDLY during my last state ID photo taking session because I couldn't hold my head straight. The guy acted like I was doing it deliberately.

I have torticollis. Once I explained that I have a "twisty neck", the guy was like, oh, okay.

But I failed to fit the rules he was following. He might as well have been a robot.
posted by gsh at 9:58 AM on September 5


this is obviously transphobic bullshit

What specifically about my comment invited such a nasty response?

My comment specifically classified this dispute as "this is dumb" and "nonsense." Then I expressed the desire that we not have to identify to the government at all, since historically this was done much differently, as others have noted. This whole dispute and embarrassment could have been avoided.
posted by resurrexit at 9:58 AM on September 5 [1 favorite]


But they have photos now, which are a more guaranteed way to ensure you're you, yeah?

Sure, that's what they've evolved into; resurrexit's point was that they were once simply an indicator that the carrier had passed the required tests to drive. Our sense and needs of what identity is and how to "prove" it and to whom has changed a lot over the years. I don't think anyone here is fighting with you about what purpose licenses currently serve, only pointing out that that is not something they have always been required to do.
posted by rtha at 9:58 AM on September 5 [3 favorites]


What specifically about my comment invited such a nasty response?

By 'this' I meant 'this situation.' Apologies for being unclear.

That doesn't answer the question of how you would guarantee that someone possessing a given licence is actually the person who should be possessing that licence.

I get that, rtha. But for a bunch of reasons we do feel the need to ensure that people can prove they do indeed have the legal right to operate a vehicle, right? So we have photos now, and I don't see any way for that to work without government. I'm interested in hearing alternate ideas on how to make that work, if one objects to government doing so, which was more the point of my question.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 10:05 AM on September 5 [1 favorite]


I'll preface this by saying that the DMV is being idiotic here. Then I'll ask a tangential question? Do people with wigs and toupees have to remove them for ID photos? I ask mainly since I almost always wear a baseball hat and have always been told to remove it for liscences and passports. Just curious.
posted by jonmc at 10:07 AM on September 5


Do people with wigs and toupees have to remove them for ID photos?

Also covered in the complaint.
79. Upon information and belief, the SCDMV allows individuals of both sexes to wear hairpieces, i.e., wigs, toupees or hair extensions, in their driver’s license photos.
posted by Shmuel510 at 10:13 AM on September 5 [1 favorite]


Ha! I don't look that bad...

I once had my DMV photo taken and the woman says, "Wow, this is a great picture of you. Too bad we can't sell you copies," or some such. I looked at it really was a good photo. It became a joke. People would show their licenses and how bad they photos were, and I'd say, "Oh, mine's great." That would get the usual chuckles and then I would show them. I never looked that good in real life.
posted by cjorgensen at 10:33 AM on September 5 [5 favorites]


My uncle insists on doing what he has coined the "Realtor(tm) Lean"(tm) for all of his license photos. If you're not sure what I mean, just google realtors and note shoulder forward, arms crossed, head cocked.

It is awesome and I highly recommend it.
posted by odinsdream at 10:57 AM on September 5 [2 favorites]


I got scolded REPEATEDLY during my last state ID photo taking session because I couldn't hold my head straight. The guy acted like I was doing it deliberately.

I have torticollis. Once I explained that I have a "twisty neck", the guy was like, oh, okay.

But I failed to fit the rules he was following. He might as well have been a robot.


Again, that probably has something to do with facial recognition software, which is being used more and more often. If your face isn't straight on, the computer can't perform the right analysis. (Of course, they probably could've digitally tilted your photo to the right angle, but whatever.)
posted by Ben Trismegistus at 11:01 AM on September 5


What's funny to me is that if that were a cis-woman many people wouldn't have even thought she was wearing makeup at all. It's that kind of fresh-faced look that gets touted as natural for girls.
posted by looli at 11:36 AM on September 5 [9 favorites]


He is clearly NOT violating their policy. Good grief. Once he pointed out that he wears makeup every day, that should've been the end of it.
posted by desuetude at 11:47 AM on September 5 [1 favorite]


I wasn't wearing makeup when I updated my license the last time, but I walked in armed with printouts of the statute under which I was changing my gender marker. The little Houma, Louisiana, DMV had pretty obviously never encountered a trans person before and were not familiar with the law. They were familiar with the media's singular question, though, and repeated it to me over and over. They demanded to know if I had "had the surgery," which the state may have intended to require but technically does not. The letter from my doctor (scan for the curious, from a discussion yesterday) stated that I'd had "appropriate clinical treatment," which, while intentionally ambiguous, precisely matched the requirement. But still, they kept asking me if I had had one particular surgery, and I kept answering that I wasn't comfortable sharing that information with them and as I understood the law I was not required to reveal any specifics of my medical care.

They apparently weren't comfortable interpreting the law themselves, either from my printouts or their big binder, and sent me back out to the waiting room while they called someone higher up. An hour later they called me back in to say that that person wasn't sure, either, and they in turn were calling someone else up the food chain. After another hour I was called back in - someone up top had finally confirmed that yes, I was allowed to change my gender marker, and then I finally got to take my picture which of course makes me look like a 90s rapper.

I consider that to be a positive interaction. So many of my fiends have been immediately turned away from DMVs down here that the hot information is not which office is fastest and least crowded but which office has workers willing to look up and follow the law - it's just accepted that it might take you a couple of tries to get a new license. At least I could get an appropriate ID though - poorer and non-white trans people have a lot more trouble getting theirs, and are also more likely to be discriminated against for lacking the right name or gender marker to start with.
posted by Corinth at 12:04 PM on September 5 [6 favorites]


77. Parks stated, “[i]f your name is David Jones and it says you are a male, then you should look like a male.”

It is hard to know how deep the irony goes here.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 12:23 PM on September 5 [11 favorites]


WA licenses have a gender designation? That's pretty darn progressive.

Mine says "Sex: M." Newer ones might be different; I need to renew mine soon.

That doesn't answer the question of how you would guarantee that someone possessing a given licence is actually the person who should be possessing that licence.

The same way we do with all the other vital paperwork that does not have photos attached, like university diplomas. I've lived in a few countries where drivers licenses were just pieces of paper -- as described above, the license proved you were legal to drive, and if necessary you used an official ID (e.g. passport, national identity card, etc) to prove your identity. The US conflates the two, which makes some sense in a place where such a high proportion of people drive, but isn't ideal in some other ways.

Back to the FPP, this is why bureaucracies need high quality policies and procedures. It shouldn't be left to a low-level line clerk how to handle this situation, but instead there should be a clear and transparent policy for them to follow. If this is genuinely the first man-in-makeup situation in the history of the DMV, then it would be valid for them to say "uh, we have no policy for this, let me call headquarters," at which point headquarters should say to proceed the same way they do when a woman shows up in makeup, duh.
posted by Dip Flash at 12:29 PM on September 5 [1 favorite]


Wait, hold on.. you can't get non-DL govt ID in the USA? It's standard across Canada, every province issues it if you don't want/need a DL. (USA passport rates are pretty low, IIRC.)
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 12:33 PM on September 5


Wait, hold on.. you can't get non-DL govt ID in the USA?

Yes, you can. The privilege to drive is not the same and the need to produce identification, and every state has a way to issue you a photo ID that is not a DL.
posted by hippybear at 12:35 PM on September 5 [4 favorites]


Okay, took the wrong meaning from 'conflates the two.'
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 12:43 PM on September 5


fffm, you can, at least in New York.
posted by jonmc at 12:54 PM on September 5


To me, the actual DMV policy stated in the article seems entirely sensible and not even particularly ambiguous:

At no time will an applicant be photographed when it appears he or she is purposely altering his or her appearance so that the photo would misrepresent his or her identity

But as desuetude says above, he's very obviously not violating this policy. If he wears make up on a regular basis, then the DMV should (and on my reading of the policy, does) prefer that he be photographed in that fashion. The policy manifestly does not demand that photographs reflect gender presentation norms. Quite correctly, the only thing it demands is that an ID photo appropriately represents identity. The problem seems to be that at least DMV employee doesn't seem to grasp what the word "identity" actually means, nor what function an identification photograph is supposed to serve. Which suggests that inadequate training is a big part of the problem here.
posted by langtonsant at 2:12 PM on September 5


The training is inadequate even on the Cover Your Ass level, if the clerk in question apparently volunteered the fact that she understood that C. C. wore makeup on a regular basis.
posted by Sticherbeast at 2:34 PM on September 5


Off topic, but "Chase Culpepper" is an excellent name. Just rolls off the tongue. If I were a writer I would totally name a character that.
posted by Hoopo at 2:39 PM on September 5 [5 favorites]


Based on the second set of photos, it looks like you get a free makeover if TLDF takes your case!
posted by kanewai at 2:55 PM on September 5


What I want to know is, how many cases are there of ciswomen being asked to remove their makeup before getting a photo ID?

If my experiences in South Carolina are at all representative, I'm guessing they're more likely to demand that ciswomen to put some on.
posted by palmcorder_yajna at 3:21 PM on September 5


What makes this especially frustrating BS is that here in the Midwest, away from the few big cities, as I'm sure is true in lots of other places in the U.S., people get pulled over and arrested for driving while trans. That is, people who are gender nonconforming or visibly trans gender get pulled over for minor traffic violations, then arrested for "identity fraud" because their gender presentation doesn't match the binary gender listed on their drivers licenses. Hard to remedy that when you have to conform to the gender marker you are stuck with to get a license photo in the first place.

I had my own experience with DMV gender mishigas when I gender transitioned, though, as Corinth stated above, I know other people whose experiences were a lot worse. Anyway, I showed up with my doctor's letter to get a new license with M on it. The DMV I went to required everyone to start out in one big line, present their reason for being there to a sorting agent who would give them paperwork, and then go to individual agents when called. It was quite crowded, as usual, and there was a long line of people behind me when I reached this sorting agent and handed over my letter. He queried me at length, apparently having trouble comprehending that I was changing my license marker to M. Finally he bursts out with, "So, are you telling me you're a TRANSSEXUAL?" Feeling fifty pairs of eyes locking onto me, I said "Yes." "Well, what are you then, some kind of PRE-OP?" Ugh. I just nodded and grabbed the waiting number he gave me.

DMVs are the capitols of gender policing for much of the trans/gendernonconforming population in the US. It's sad.
posted by DrMew at 3:54 PM on September 5 [10 favorites]


Chase should have gone to Virginia.
posted by googly at 6:43 PM on September 5


For curiosity, regarding photos on ID, not gender, in most of europe you bring your own photos and the clerk in the office will give a 5 second glance to check if you look like your photo.
I was really saddend when the ID with the really great photo expired.

Recently I had to renew my chinese visa in a chinese goverment office. A very bored state official in uniform takes the photo, interrogation bright light in face. No neklesses, no earings, no nothing. Hair pulled back, for all genders (elastics provided). No makup for any gender. Makeup remover provided.
No facial expression exept apaty.
Everybody turns out looking like a criminal with a hangover.
sarcasm > Equality via conformity < / sarcasm
posted by thegirlwiththehat at 1:55 AM on September 6 [6 favorites]


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