Transgender Youth: Education, Awareness and Tolerance is Critical

04/24/2015 04:44 pm ET | Updated Feb 02, 2016

A transgender South Carolina teen arrived at the state Department of Motor Vehicles only to be told to remove her makeup for her driver's license photo, due to a policy that bans license photos when someone is purposefully altering his or her appearance.

Chase Culpepper, 17, who was born male, regularly wears makeup and women's or androgynous clothing. When told to remove her makeup several times, Culpepper finally removed her makeup to the satisfaction of the DMV employees and her license photo was taken.

The teen and a New York legal defense group sued, saying Culpepper was humiliated and felt degraded.

Federal court documents show Chase Culpepper's lawsuit was settled this week. In the settlement, the DMV agrees to alter its policy to allow people to wear makeup in photos regardless of their gender. Agency officials declined to comment.

The teenage years are a very trying and tumultuous time for any young person, but when being transgender is added to the mix, things get especially critical.

Transgender youth are children and adolescents who identify as transgender and/or transsexual. Transgender youth face different challenges compared to adults. Transgender issues manifest at different times in life in different individuals. In most cases of gender identity disorder (GID), the condition is often apparent in early childhood, when such a child may express behavior incongruent with and dissatisfaction related to their assigned gender.

YouTube star Jazz Jennings joins the ranks of prominent transgender teens doing her part to raise awareness. Jazz knows only too well that as a Florida resident, she could end up going to jail for using a public bathroom.

Why? Because Rep. Frank Artiles has proposed a measure that would have a person jailed for at least a year after using a public restroom that doesn't match their gender.

Florida Democratic Party Chair Allison Tant said in a statement: "I was appalled today as I watched the Republicans stand united to write discrimination into law," adding "That this is a bigoted solution in search of a problem, and that the Florida GOP should be ashamed of themselves."

ALCU spokesperson Anthony Romero said in a statement: "This bill makes harassment and discrimination the government's job."

Warren Beatty and Annette Bening's child Stephen, born Kathlyn -- attracted attention after making a video of himself for the site We Happy Trans. Stephen, then 20 and a sophomore at Sarah Lawrence College, explained that, at 14, he had "transitioned socially," adopting his new name and attending school as a boy. Chastity Bono is no longer known as Chastity, but is now known as a man named Chaz. Actress Laverne Cox of Orange Is The New Black is a transgender, as is Alexis Arquette, the transgender sister of David and Patricia Arquette.

We're living in a different world today. LGBT's have always had a difficult time in school, in society and at times with their families and friends. We've always needed to educate people but now it's more important than ever.

There is no shame in who we are. Some of us are short, tall, of various races, have different sexual orientation and have transitioned from one gender to another. Nothing is wrong with any of this, other than the fact that many in our society are not accepting or tolerant.

One thing we must remember, we are all the same -- we are all people! STOMP Out Bullying, the leading national anti-bullying organization in the country, educates students about how critically important it is that we honor our differences and respect and celebrate our similarities through programs such as NO MATTER!

(Full disclosure: the author of this article is the founder and CEO of STOMP Out Bullying.)

We must not only educate our students, but it's time to educate adults, society and our government so when a person wants to use a public restroom, it is not against the law, or when someone needs to have a drivers license photo taken, they are not made to feel degraded or humiliated. Life struggles are difficult enough. No one should ever feel that they are not accepted, nor should they have to struggle because of other people's opinions and beliefs.

We must unite and look at people as human beings no matter what their differences are. We cannot shame them. Instead we must accept them and treat them as we want to be treated -- simply as people!