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Photographing The Butch Women Of San Francisco

Photographer Meg Allen celebrates "those who choose to exist and identify outside the gender binary" through a series of stunning portraits.

When photographer Meg Allen began taking portraits of her friends in the San Francisco area last year, she had no idea it would soon become a project close to her heart. Allen describes herself as a "butch-ish queer" chick — she has been all of her life. "I tried to do the feminine thing there and there, but it always felt so false." Her photo-based documentary BUTCH attempts to explore the butch identity and aesthetic through a series of personal portraits.

Allen says she was initially inspired by the photography of Catherine Opie, Honey Lee Cottrell, Tee Corine, and Chloe Sherman in Jill Posener's book Nothing But the Girl — but wanted to give an updated look at feminine masculinity. "I lived in San Francisco at the time, and the Mission was Latino and dyke city ... yet the only thing I saw published or visual in a major way was this book and a handful of others."

In her own words, Allen describes what BUTCH means to her:

"It is a celebration of those who choose to exist and identify outside of the binary; who still get he'd and she'd differently throughout the day."

"Who get called out in bathrooms and eyed suspiciously at the airport."

"Who have invented names for themselves as parents because [neither] 'Mom' nor 'Dad' feels quite right."

"It is an homage to the bull-daggers and female husbands before me, and to the young studs, gender queers, and bois who continue to bloom into the present."

Growing up in the San Francisco area, Allen was exhilarated to see people that looked like her in "such a vast variety."

"They were masculine and they were proud and irreverent."

"It's harsh to have people stare at you, especially in the bathroom, with almost anger because they can't figure out if you are a boy or a girl. Why is this question so important?"

"Especially when someone is pregnant, it's the first thing we ask. It's like this major guiding factor for how we decide how to interact with someone."

You can see Allen's full photography collection here.