The DMV is the scourge of many a hapless taxpayer's patience, and often held up as the epitome of government pratfalls. When conservatives don't want poor people to have something, they incite the visage of long lines, clerical inconsistency, and overworked employee testiness to rile the people into resistance—wouldn't you just rather be dead than have to take a day off from work to wait in line to get necessary health care paid for in part or full by the government? Vote early, vote often, the cyanide capsules are in the mail.
For most, the DMV's power extends to ruining your day and making it hard to buy booze. The power they have over trans people, in a society where your government ID determines what bathrooms you can use, who can feel you up at airport security, and whether or not you can attend certain schools, effectively dictates our safety. If you are stopped by a police officer or a security guard with a complex about those Paul Blart movies and your appearance does not match what your ID suggests it should be, you can be detained, assaulted, and/or humiliated.
Since DMVs fall under state jurisdictions, they have their own separate laws about whether or not to let trans people have an ID that matches their identity and presentation—and with those laws come their own discretionary exercising of their laws.
In Anderson, South Carolina, circa March 2013, Chase Culpepper was told to take her makeup off if she wanted a driver's license—she needed to "look more male" for the photo. Such a scene is veritably repeated ad nauseum in the lives of trans people all across this meh nation.
Chase Culpepper and her mother Teresa, having none of this, hooked up with the Transgender Legal Defense & Education Fund and sued the (definitely under-appreciated, under-paid, under-trained) bastards. The ensuing lawsuit has overturned the DMV's previous policies toward trans and gender variant people. The DMV will now undergo training on how to better service gender variant citizens. A slew of victories have been won for trans rights and visibility since Culpepper first kicked this story off—mandated Medicare coverage of trans health procedures, a gender neutral bathroom at the White House, everything about Laverne Cox. Chase's struggle, a slown burn for sure, helps assert undoubted precedent for government agencies in his own state and others.
For gender variant people, the rules were made to be argued with and appealed and occasionally dismantled in a court of law. The bureaucracy may seem overwhelming and the gains meager, but every step forward, no matter how small, is a step forward to liberation—or equality, if you're more of a centrist about these issues.
Author's Note: Articles about Culpepper have used both male and female binarist pronouns. Hence I have followed suit, assuming this is her preference.
Another Author's Note: Dang. Yahoo is still a thing?