Trans woman allegedly forced to remove makeup for driver's license photo

"The whole thing was terrible and traumatic," said Jaydee Dolinar, a transgender woman allegedly forced to remove her makeup with hand sanitizer at a Utah DMV.
By Gwen Aviles

A transgender woman said she was “humiliated and traumatized” after she was forced to remove her makeup with hand sanitizer for her driver’s license photo.

Jaydee Dolinar told NBC News that after her purse was stolen, she made an appointment at the Fairpark Driver License Office in Utah to obtain a replacement license last Wednesday. She said she brought the required documents to the appointment and “was fully prepared to have to say my dead name,” since she is currently in the process of changing her gender marker and legal name on her paperwork. A "dead name" describes a trans person's given name, if different than the name they choose to go by.

Jaydee Dolinar said she was forced to remove her makeup with hand sanitizer when taking a picture for her driver's license.Courtesy

What Dolinar was not prepared for, however, was that after taking a picture with makeup, she would be instructed by another employee to remove it for a second image.

“I was told my wearing makeup would be confusing to the system,” Dolinar, 33, said. “The employee said because my appearance didn’t match my gender, it wouldn’t be able to be picked up by the facial recognition software.”

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Dolinar, who is a full-time doctoral student in archeology at the University of Utah, said that because she wouldn’t have time to reschedule the appointment and because people were watching her, she felt “forced” into taking off her makeup.

“I asked what I should do, and they handed me the hand sanitizer and wipes,” Dolinar said. “The whole thing was terrible and traumatic. I had to take it off right then and there and I felt as a trans woman, I had forced myself to get clocked.”

After removing her makeup, Dolinar took a second picture. This time, her makeup was smeared. She said she tried to “smile while crying.”

Neither the Fairpark Driver License Office nor the Utah Department of Public Safety Driver License Division responded to NBC News’ requests for comment, but Sue Robbins, chair of the board of directors of Transgender Education Advocates of Utah, said this is not the first time an incident like this has occurred. According to Robbins, two other transgender women were required to remove their makeup for their drivers license pictures in 2015, prompting her organization to provide training and a video about “how to treat trans people.”

“Trans people should be able to live our lives the way they feel,” Robbins said. “The license should match the way a person presents on a regular basis and reflect their regular appearance, so to make them present differently is discriminatory.”

Robbins said Transgender Education Advocates of Utah plans to work with the office again to “discuss a path forward” and prevent a similar incident from happening again.

“It was just cruel. I didn’t expect that lack of humanity,” Dolinar said. “I’m a human being just like everyone else. Have some humanity.”

The National Center for Transgender Equality ranks Utah’s drivers license gender change policy with a “C,” stating that there are “burdensome process requirements,” such as needing to provide an updated passport or birth certificate. For reference, a state with an “A” grade does not require provider certification, while a state with an “F” grade requires either proof of surgery, a court order or an amended birth certificate.

Beyond Utah, there have been similar incidents noted in West Virginia, where two transgender women were reportedly told in 2014 that they must appear as male in their license photos, and in South Carolina, where a transgender teen was reportedly told to wipe off their makeup in 2015. In San Francisco, a DMV employee allegedly sent a trans women a letter, calling her an “abomination” in 2010.

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