Chase Culpepper is a 16-year-old resident of South Carolina. Like 16-year-olds all over the country, Chase applied for his drivers’ license this past March. Unlike most 16-year-olds. DMV officials forced Chase to change his appearance before they would take his license picture.
Chase prefers male pronouns at this point, but wears girl’s clothing and make-up. DMV workers accused him of not looking the way “a boy should.” They refused to take his picture as long as he was “in disguise.”
CNN’s video is not embeddable
The government should not be in the business of telling men and women how we are supposed to look as men and women.
–Michael Silverman, executive director of the Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund (TLDEF)
At the time, Chase wanted his license, so he wiped off his make-up and removed his mascara. He got his license, but he wasn’t happy.
TLDEF says that the DMV stifled Chase’s freedom of expression, deliberately suppressing the more feminine and androgynous aspects of his personality.
Silverman wrote an open letter to the DMV’s executive director, Kevin Shwedo and general counsel, Frank Valenta in early June.
Chase’s message was accurately understood by DMV staff members, who were concerned that Chase did not appear to be a typical male. That he is not a typical male is the very
message that Chase was conveying through his gender expression.
In the end, Chase was told that he could not wear makeup simply because boys typically do not wear makeup. It was not because his makeup acted as any type of disguise of his identity. Sex stereotypes like this do not justify a government agency’s restriction of constitutionally protected expression.
We want Chase to be able to go back to the DMV in Anderson, his hometown, and have his photo taken the way he looks every day with makeup on.
Chase says he is eager to do so.
Chase is happy with who he is. Chase’s mother loves him just the way he is. The government should not tell him there is something wrong with him just because he doesn’t meet the DMV’s expectations about what a boy should look like.
Beth Parks, spokeswoman for the DMV, says the department has a policy on driver license photos. The policy says that
at no time will an applicant be photographed when it appears that he or she is purposely altering his or her appearance so that it the photo would misrepresent his or her identity.
Parks says the concern is with law enforcement personnel being confused:
If it’s Thomas Jones on the license and yet it looks like a female, that is very confusing for them. They want to know what the identity is.
It seems to me that Chase is a fairly gender-neutral name.
Or maybe the issue is that a police officer, upon seeing Chase’s driver license, might treat Chase like a girl rather than like a boy. Do leo’s habitually treat men and women differently?
The accusation of deception is a constant in the lives of transgender people.
Linda Harvey of the anti-lgbt and ultra-conservative Mission America condemned transgender people and our rights on her Wednesday radio show.
I think America is quickly moving into chaotic territory where we are blessing and approving behaviors that so completely defy reality and the will of God that the consequences will be devastating, especially to kids.
If Satan were to devise a strategy to confuse and undermine the moral base of America, he could not have chosen a better vehicle than pushing gender confusion, which is just the latest offshoot of the homosexual movement.
Janet Mock also addresses the issue of deception in an interview with Jessica Valenti at the Guardian.
Valenti: There are so many false and damaging narratives about trans people that the media and pop culture propagate. Is there one that you find particularly harmful?
Mock: The most harmful is the myth that trans women are not “real” women or trans people are inauthentic and therefore our identities, experiences and bodies must be investigated and interrogated. The media commonly frames our narratives in this way and it’s harmful because it undermines trans people’s experiences and teaches others that they too should be skeptical about trans people’s lives – until trans people “prove” their realness.
Valenti: Can you talk about the concept of “passing” and what it means for the trans community?
Mock: I have such a difficult time with the concept of “passing” because I feel it gives this idea that there’s some kind of deception or trickery involved in our identities. I am a woman, people perceive me as a woman, and when I walk on the street, I am “passing” as anything. I am merely being myself. Often, my trans-ness does not lead the way when I walk into spaces and that allows me safety and anonymity. And because trans people are marked as illegitimate, our bodies and identities are often open to public dissection – and this is a major burden for many trans people, a burden that I often do not have to carry in every space I enter because of the way that I look. Our safety should not be based on the way that we look.
…how much easier it would be to advocate for transpeople if we all passed better.
Not a pretty girl
nor an attractive woman
just a hope
I have been
resigned to this
But quality lies
in the heart
and the mind
not on the skin
of love and support
rings as hollow
as hollow can be
Ugly lives down deep
–Robyn Elaine Serven
–January 16, 2009
From my own writings:
Life in the Passing Lane, written for Triangle Rising Newsmagazine, Little Rock, AR, June, 1997.