On May 10, 52-year-old Mount Storm resident Trudy Kitzmiller visited the DMV office in Martinsburg to update her driver’s license to reflect her new legal name and her appearance in her license photo. She brought with her court documents verifying her name change and documents from her doctors stating that was she under their care as part of her gender transition. But Trudy was met with hostility by DMV staff who called her “it” and ordered her to take off her wig, makeup and jewelry before they would take her photo for a new license. She protested their actions, but they denied her request to be photographed as her true self. Trudy left the office despondent and still retains her old driver’s license that does not reflect her legal name or appearance. This has caused her great difficulty on a day-to-day basis, including when applying for jobs, which require that she provide accurate identification.
“This is who I am – a transgender woman – and I have overcome many obstacles to become my true self. DMV staff not only denied me the right to appear in my license photo as myself, they used dehumanizing language to address me,” Trudy said. “The experience was humiliating and wrong. I am asking the DMV to allow me to retake my license photo as I regularly appear and to treat transgender people fairly moving forward. I want to move on with my life and participate fully in society with an ID that accurately reflects who I am.”
In the other instance, 45-year-old Ranson resident Kristen Skinner went to the Charles Town DMV on January 7 to update her driver’s license to reflect her new legal name and her appearance in her license photo. At the DMV, she too was met with hostility by staff who told her she could not be photographed wearing the makeup that she wears on a daily basis. She was told that men cannot be photographed for a driver’s license photo wearing makeup. She was told to remove her false eyelashes and wig, neither of which she was wearing. DMV staff also called her “it.” Kristen eventually removed her makeup and DMV staff took her license photo with an altered appearance that does not reflect how she looks on a daily basis.
“It has taken me a long time to become the woman that I am today, and it has not been easy. The DMV treated me horribly,” Kristen said. “I was simply trying to update my driver’s license to reflect who I truly am as a transgender woman. Instead I was told to alter how I normally appear so that I would look like a man and was called “it” in the process. The DMV should right this wrong by allowing me to take my photo as I regularly appear. No one deserves to be subjected to the discrimination I faced at the DMV.”
In a letter dated June 30, TLDEF contacted the West Virginia DMV and requested that Trudy and Kristen be given the opportunity to retake their license photos while appearing as they normally do.
“Trudy & Kristen’s freedom to express who they are as transgender women may not be restricted in this way by the West Virginia Division of Motor Vehicles,” said TLDEF Executive Director Michael Silverman in the letter to the DMV. “Forcing them 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.”
“Trudy and Kristen appeared at the DMV in makeup, clothing and accessories that they wear on a daily basis,” he continued. “Nevertheless, DMV staff mandated that Trudy and Kristen change their appearance…. Other women are permitted to wear makeup and items that facilitate female gender expression in their driver’s license photos as a matter of course, yet Trudy and Kristen were targeted for suppression simply because they are transgender women.”
Silverman went on to urge the West Virginia DMV to allow Trudy and Kristen to return to the DMV for new photos as soon as possible: “Trudy and Kristen are eager to take their pictures again, with their everyday makeup, hair and jewelry, and are eager to put this incident behind them. We hope that you will assist us in ensuring that they are able to return to the DMV and obtain driver’s licenses that accurately reflect who they are.”