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W.Va. DMV tells transgender women they must appear as male in license photos

Wednesday, July 9, 2014
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Two transgender women in West Virginia say they were harassed and humiliated by Department of Motor Vehicle workers who refused to take their pictures as they appear on a daily basis.

Trudy Kitzmiller (left) and Kristen SkinnerTLDEF

Trudy Kitzmiller (left) and Kristen Skinner

In two separate incidents this year, Kristen Skinner, 45, of Ranson, W.Va., and Trudy Kitzmiller, 52, from Mount Storm, W.Va., both claim they were told by DMV workers that they could not be photographed for their licenses unless they removed all makeup, eyelashes, jewelry and wigs, and that workers used defamatory language towards the women in the process, describing them as “it.”

On June 30, the Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund (TLDEF) contacted the West Virginia DMV requesting that the two women be allowed to have their photographs taken of them as they normally appear.

Michael Silverman, executive director of TLDEF, wrote that forcing Skinner and Kitzmiller to remove their makeup and other items that facilitate a female gender expression before allowing them to take their driver’s license photos restricts their free speech rights in violation of state and federal constitutional protections.”

Steven Dale, acting commissioner of the West Virginia DMV, defends the action, telling the Martinsburg Journal that that “any change of gender requires a court order specifically indicating that the gender change is complete.”

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But Silverman contends that neither Skinner nor Kitzmiller were requesting to change their gender.

The women were requesting to update their photographs and name changes, and according to Silverman, had the appropriate documents to do so.

“We believe it is a violation of their constitutional rights under the First Amendment,” said Silverman. “They cannot be told how to look a certain way.”

The TLDEF letter asks the Motor Vehicle Division to reconsider its decision.

The TLDEF has also contacted the South Carolina DMV over its refusal to allow a gender non-conforming teen who dresses as a girl to have his driver’s license photo retaken wearing makeup.

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