The Island Alien

Too Inappropriate for the Government



My name is Julie Mango, and I have weird hair. Half pink, half blue. Too bright. Too loud. But is it illegal? Of course not. Frowned upon, yes. Advised against, yes. But not illegal.

On the 14th of March, I went to get my ID card renewed at the Tunapuna branch of the Elections And Boundaries Commission. I chose this day specifically because:

  1. I needed a ride from my boyfriend because I couldn’t travel there.
  2. I couldn’t travel there because of a serious leg injury I’d received on the 12th.
  3. The only day my boyfriend had free was that day.

So we parked in the closest parking lot from the building, and set off on our journey to get my ID card renewed. He walked and I limped. Ever so slowly.

Upon arriving at our destination, I noticed there was a potted plant blocking the elevator doors. I said, “Why is there a plant there?” One of the ladies sitting nearby said, “D elevator nuh working again. Yuh hadda take the stairs.” The ID card office is on the second floor of the building. I was already thinking about just coming back another day when my leg was healed. But that might take weeks. An ID card takes 6 weeks to be processed. The earlier the better, right? I asked my boyfriend what we should do. One of the ladies said, “He could go inno. You could sit down here and wait, and when they ready, they will come downstairs for you.” Oh, so this was a regular thing, then? This is how anyone who is disabled gets treated, then? Alright, cool. He went upstairs, and I sat on one of the chairs.

After a few minutes, he came back downstairs with a lady from the office. She just needed to take the new photo. She assured me it would be okay to take here, and handed my boyfriend a dirty, heavily wrinkled sheet of white bristol board and said, “Hold this behind her head please.” This was the backdrop. She took the photo, amidst all the wind blowing everyone around and was satisfied with it. So was I. She made sure we had the necessary documents and the old ID card, and then left.

We walked/limped all the way back to the parking lot to continue our journey now to our next destination. My phone rang. It was the ID card lady. She said, “Hi it’s me from the ID card office! My supervisor has told me that we will not be able to process your ID card.”

Why not?

“Because of your hair colour.”

Okay. What do I need to do?

“I don’t know. I will call you back later.”

53751093_10157016655193864_138415221013217280_n[Photo: My inappropriate hair.]

Flash forward to a couple hours later. I’m home now, awaiting their call. I post on Facebook, asking my friends for clarification. I am told:

  • “This is nonsense”
  • “This is discrimination”
  • “I have coloured hair and facial piercings in my ID card photo. I wasn’t required to change anything.”

The phone rings. This time, it is a man. The conversation follows:

“Hello. I am letting you know that we are unable to process your ID card renewal.”

Okay. Can you tell me why not?

“You hair is unnaturally coloured. It is inappropriate and it is against policy. ID cards are for business purposes. You need to have a professional appearance.”

I thought ID cards were for identification purposes and need to reflect how a person looks. This is how I look at all times. I will have unnatural hair for the next 20 years. I have had unnatural hair for the past 6 years.

No, it is supposed to be your natural hair.

That makes no sense. What do I do now, then?

“It is your choice.”

Can I wear a wig, or do I have to dye my hair? What colours are acceptable? Only black or brown? I know people who have red hair in their ID cards as well. I’ve also been told by my friend that she was able to have her facial piercings in. Is that also against policy?

“Yes that is against policy. You cannot have facial piercings in, or any tattoos on the face. And no unnatural hair colours.”

So what would happen if I had face tattoos? Also, my friend said she had no problem with her piercings in the photo.

“Well your friend isn’t here now, is she?”

Okay, but could you tell me what to do? 

“You’re not paying attention. Have a nice day, Goodbye.”

Wait, you cannot just hang up. We aren’t done talking. Can you tell me what my next step is? Do I dye my hair and come back? When should I come back? Is it okay if I wear a wig?


He hangs up on me. I am furious. I am not demanding that my ID card be processed with my unnaturally coloured hair. I know it is loud. I just want someone to tell me my next step.

I call back. This time, a woman answers. I say, “Hello, good day, I was just speaking to a man and I got cut off.” She sighs, “Is this about the photo?” I say yes. I ask what I need to do next. She says nothing. I ask for her name or the name of the previous man. She refuses to answer and puts me on hold. Then hangs up.

Furious? I am seething. I call a lawyer. I just want to know what I need to do next. The lawyer advises me to just pull my hair back for the photo. She says it is should be okay for me to have a wig, if I am unable to dye my hair, but she isn’t sure. I am very much unable to dye my hair because;

  1. it is too damaged and
  2. I do not want to dye my hair.

I call back the office a few times and get no answer. On the fourth try, a woman answers. I say, “Hi, I just want to know if I would be allowed to wear a wig in my ID photo?” She says, “Listen, we have forwarded this matter to the CEO of the company and we will get back to you soon.”

Let’s talk about a few things here.

  1. The blatant unprofessionalism with which they dealt with me.
  2. The total lack of transparency.
  3. The horrible customer service.
  4. The complete disregard for disabled people at their offices.

Okay, Elections And Boundaries Commission of Trinidad and Tobago. I get it. I’m a rare case. I probably stressed you out because you have no idea what to do with me. My hair is unnatural. It is loud. It doesn’t reflect how I usually look. Do you want to know how I usually look?

Exhibit A:12644714_10153839668483864_5897106034633328984_n

Exhibit B:

Exhibit C:

Exhibit D:

Okay, you get it, right? I cannot remember the last time I had a ‘natural’ hair colour. This is literally how I look 100% of the time. I get it, you have strict policies. Then please tell me what I can do to get my ID card. I get it, you’re probably not allowed to tell me specifically what to do because of personal rights and laws and whatever. But please tell me if it is okay to wear a wig? I assume it would be because lots of people wear wigs and extensions in their ID card photo. That would be discriminatory, right?

I’m not even going to address the fact that coloured hair, piercings, and tattoos are NOT unprofessional. I’m not even going to address the fact that I am REQUIRED to conform to a certain image to be allowed to get a National Identification card. Those can be addressed at a later date. Yes, we need to change this way of thinking, as a nation, but that isn’t going to happen today or tomorrow. I do not expect it to. What I do expect, however, is to be spoken to in a polite manner, and to be answered when I ask specific questions.

Do you not have the decency to do even that, Elections And Boundaries Commission of Trinidad and Tobago?

I await your next phone call.

19 thoughts on “Too Inappropriate for the Government

  1. Hope you get your ID card. I don’t swallow the “natural hair” thing, lots of people have braids, wigs, extensions and colour. Their issue (of course I am guessing) is the “loudness” (I personally love it! It looks great on you and obviously shows your funky personality). Is this really law, are they making it up, is this left to interpretation, are they just being difficult — all possible combinations. Does it sound right, no, were you treated right, no.

    So hopefully drawing light on this will assist them (EBC) in formulating better customer relation policies and providing the public with a set of standard regulations (that hopefully does not impeach upon individual rights).


    • The situation was resolved and I can go ahead with the process of getting my ID card! Thanks for your comment!


      • Most and I want to dare say all government workers have NO respect for customers and lack basic customer service! It is really unfortunate that you had this experience. I see people commenting on social media literally bulling you and calling you names.
        Trinidadians – cant see the bigger picture.


      • It’s true! I really hope we can highlight the total lack of customer service and the disrespect citizens face on a daily basis. Maybe we can work towards change.


  2. Hoping you get this resolved soonest.


  3. Reblogged this on The Island Alien and commented:

    Update on the situation!

    I received a phone call from the EBC. A mature sounded woman spoke to me. She was very polite, and said that the CEO had gotten in contact with them about the situation. I was told that while the CEO thinks my hair is “too bright”, I would be allowed to come back at my convenience and take a new photo with my hair just the way it is right now, just pulled back enough so it won’t be showing as much.

    This is literally all I wanted. I am not here trying to break policies or change laws. I am just asking for transparency and clarity when handling this situation.

    Do I regret posting about it? Absolutely not. This blog is where I post about my thoughts, and things in my life. It’s usually very boring, honestly. haha

    Did I know the post was going to receive so much attention? Of course not.
    This is just a blog that I use to write about whatever I’m interested in, share my photography, and my poetry, and reblog other posts I find cool. My regular blog posts get about 100 views each. This one passed 8000 views and is still climbing. All I can assume from that is that it sparked a discussion.
    Along with the loads of support I have received, I have of course gotten loads of hate. People have been dragging my personal beliefs into the situation as means to discredit me. I really don’t think my personal beliefs have anything to do with this entire situation at all.

    All citizens should be treated and spoken to with respect. And that I all I wanted.

    I am very happy the EBC contacted me about it today and were very polite with their response.


  4. I hve been trying unsuccessfully for 5 years to renew my ID card at the penal EBC… my reasons being that I’m a 1st case in this whole entire district… I have been married and divorced and remarried with all the necessary documents to show however I do not wish to change the previous surname because I have all of my legal documents bearing that name also I got permission from my ex to use his name as long as I see fit.. but the officer there keep giving me runaround… the last attempt in getting it was as follows: I went around 8.30 am with all my documents but I didn’t have copies so I had to come back…ok fine I returned around 1 with the copies only to be told that I needed to get an affidavit stating that I was married divorced remarried and keeping the former surname..why couldn’t you tell me that from the morning so I asked why?? That’s just the policy..ok fine so I asked again why is it lots of people I know in the same situation has never encountered this problem miss officer told me in the 20+ years working there she has never came across this situation… so I must believe that… and that was my 5th and last attempt to have it renewed…and the sad thing these are the same people we have to face to get it back… when people go into the office and get on like they mad police gets called in quick but look at the frustration of some people… soy dear I feel your pain…


    • I’m so sorry you’ve experienced all this unnecessary run around for your ID. I truly think it’s a ridiculous thing.I wish you all the best in the future in getting back your ID card.


  5. I have pink hair in my ID, fire engine red in my passport – green in DP. I have worked in a ministers office, private sector and internationally with unconventional hair colors, i’m currently at a lending institution with grey and silver – This is bull shit – none of them had issues with it- The minister said i’m expressing my creativity and free spirit -take them to task for this old age bull shit

    Liked by 1 person

  6. As someone who has worked for the EBC in the past, I can assure you that there are no rules regarding hair colour, tattoos or piercings when taking photos.
    In fact, such markings are welcomed as it makes it easier to confirm your identity during elections or even ID’ing your body at the morgue.
    The only rule is that your face must not be obscured by your hair in the photo and should be pulled away from it.
    Contact the EBC Head Office on Fredrick Street and file a complaint.


  7. i had short bright blue hair when i took my picture for my ID at the arima branch so i really cant undertsand why they gettingo htis way. ITS JUST AN ID CARD OML The hair colour change bu the person’s face staying the same wda, i could understand for a work id tho, with the hair colour but cmon, and the impoliteness too smh


  8. Get it in writing from them, why they denied your id card renewal. Then take them to court and collect your free money!! SUE THEIR ASS!!!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Love, you can either wear a wig or pull back your hair. They are being quite ridiculous and unprofessional. Sadly that’s the price we pay for public service in Trinidad and Tobago


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s