West Virginia DMV updates photo policy for transgender individuals

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WEST VIRGINIA -- The West Virginia Division of Motor Vehicles has updated its license photo policy to allow transgender individuals to be photographed as they regularly appear.

The updated policy started July 1 and states that "applicants must still have their full face and neck area photographed, but the focus is now more on the biometric features of the applicant.  Applicants will not be asked to remove or modify makeup, clothing, hair style, hairpieces or accessories unless any of these items obscure the required biometric features of the face and neck."

The West Virginia DMV said its policy was revised to reflect changes in our current society. The last update to this was policy was in 2003 so "additions have been made to provide reasonable accommodations to our customers, while still maintaining a high level of security in our licensing process."

As WHAG reported last year, two transgender women, Kristen Skinner and Trudy Kitzmiller, were attempting to update their licenses to reflect their new legal names and they were allegedly discriminated against at two separate DMV offices. Both women were asked to remove all their jewelry, makeup and wigs before the DMV would photograph them. Both women said they were referred to as "it." The DMV started an internal investigation, but said no evidence suggests anyone was referred to in a derogatory manner.

Representatives with the Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund (TLDEF), Inc. said this change is a victory for equal rights. 

“Transgender people are entitled to be themselves without discrimination. It is not the role of the DMV or its employees to restrict any transgender person’s freedom to express who they truly are," said Staff Attorney Ethan Rice in a press release. "People should be able to get a driver’s license without being subjected to sex discrimination. The policy change that the DMV has implemented will help all transgender West Virginians in the future and we thank the DMV for agreeing to this change without litigation.”

“I am thrilled that we won. Getting my license updated has been a long struggle. I am relieved that the DMV will finally allow me to have a license that reflects the real me and will treat transgender people fairly,” said Kitzmiller in a press release from TLDEF. “This is who I am - a transgender woman - and I have overcome many obstacles to be my true self. What happened to me at the DMV was wrong. I am so glad this policy has changed so that no one else will have to experience the humiliation I faced at the DMV.”

“I am so happy that I can update my driver’s license to reflect who I truly am as a transgender woman,” said Skinner press release from TLDEF. “It has taken me a long time to embrace my authentic self, and it has not been easy. No one deserves to be treated with the disrespect I encountered at the DMV. This new policy ensures that transgender West Virginians will be treated fairly at the DMV. Transgender people need accurate driver’s licenses that reflect who we truly are, and now we will be able to get them.”


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