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Transgender Women Say West Virginia DMV Discriminated Against, Humiliated Them

Nina Liss-Schultz

According to a letter sent on behalf of the two women by the Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund, one of the women was called "it" by a DMV staffer, and they were forced to get licenses that do not reflect their legal names and/or their everyday appearance.

The Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund has sent a letter to the Department of Motor Vehicles in West Virginia on behalf of two transgender women who say they were discriminated against by the DMV and want the department to stop humiliating trans people.

The women allege that they were harassed in two separate incidents and turned away while trying to update their driver’s licenses to reflect their gender identity. Both women, Kristen Skinner, 45, and Trudy Kitzmiller, 52, went to the DMV as part of their gender transition after having had their names already changed through the court system.

According to the letter:

[Skinner] was called “it” by DMV staff who ordered her to take off her wig, makeup and jewelry before they would allow her to be photographed for her new license. … She has been forced to retain her old driver’s license that does not reflect her legal name or appearance.

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According to the letter, Kitzmiller received almost identical treatment. After being told that “men cannot be photographed for a driver’s license photo wearing makeup,” Kitzmiller eventually capitulated to the DMV and took her license picture without wearing makeup. The Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund points out that the license photo she now has portrays “an altered appearance that does not reflect how she looks on a daily basis.”

“This is who I am—a transgender woman—and I have overcome many obstacles to become my true self,” Kitzmiller said in a statement. Skinner echoed that thought, saying, “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.” Both women are asking the DMV to let them take their photos so they appear as they do every day.

The letter is dated June 30, the same day President Obama announced an executive order to protect transgender federal employees from discrimination.

Transgender people face “a wide variety of discriminatory barriers” in every aspect of life, according to the American Civil Liberties Union. As a result, trans people “face difficulties meeting their basic needs (getting a job, housing, or health care) or in having their gender identity respected (like in the simple act of going to a public restroom).”

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