Trudy Kitzmiller and Kristen Skinner, two transgender women from West Virginia, were denied in recent attempts to update their licenses to reflect their legal names and everyday appearances.
These two separate incidents have turned the public eye to the West Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles and its policies regarding the treatment of transgender residents.
"All they were asking the DMV to do is to update the names on their driver’s licenses to reflect their new court ordered names and to take their photographs," said Michael Silverman, the executive director of the Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund.
The TLDEF sent a letter on June 30 to Steve Dale, the acting commissioner of the DMV, stating the case and the need for the DMV to correct its actions.
"I do not condone or approve any conduct which embarrassed an applicant or would single an applicant out," Dale said in an interview with CNN.
This situation began on Jan. 7, when Skinner said she went to the Charles Town, West Virginia DMV.
Skinner said she presented the proper paperwork to document her legal name change. Skinner said a problem with the camera on the computer prompted a manager to come over to the agent helping her.
"The manager came over and before even addressing whatever technical issue the agent was having, the manager said, ‘Oh, it’s going to have to remove its wig and makeup and false eyelashes before we can take a picture,’" Skinner said.
Skinner said the makeup she wore was the same she wore to work every day and she found this language to be dehumanizing.
She then faced the ultimatum of removing her makeup or not getting a new license, which she said would present problems as she frequently travels for work. She finally surrendered and after two more hours of waiting, her picture was taken.
On May 10, a similar event happened to Kitzmiller.
This time, Kitzmiller didn’t even make it past the front counter. She too was called "it" and told to remove her wig, makeup and accessories. Kitzmiller said all of her other forms of identification show her as she appears every day.
Natalie Harvey, a spokesperson for the West Virginia DMV, said they have conducted an investigation and have found no evidence to support that any management or agent called either woman "it."
After contacting the DMV, Harvey said Dale was away on business and unable to comment.
"We don’t currently have any policy in place prohibiting wearing makeup," Harvey said. "Where the problem comes in is that they are both still male on their identity documents. We can’t move that to female until we have a court order."
Harvey cited the rule 91CSR4.9.5 which says, "Any change of gender requires a court order specifically indicating the change is complete."
Harvey said legally Skinner and Kitzmiller are considered male as they have not completed transition. By coming in dressed as female they were "concealing" their true identity, which Harvey said goes against the code.
"It’s not the job of the DMV to decide whether someone looks sufficiently masculine or feminine for a driver’s license photo," Silverman said.
Harvey equated their actions to a person wearing sunglasses, scarves and other accessories that blocks their appearance.
For now, the DMV is making no plans to change its policies or allow Kitzmiller and Skinner to retake their photographs.
"I want to move on with my life and participate fully in society with an ID that accurately reflects who I am," Kitzmiller said.