OLYMPIC PENINSULA, Wash. — Somewhere on the Olympic Peninsula, which extends from the northwest coast of Washington, a community has chosen to live independent of the public supply of water, electricity and other utilities on which most residents rely. Linked by a diffuse network of shared friends and land, they would be impossible to locate without insider knowledge. Dense forest obfuscates their dwellings — tiny houses, trailers, a landlocked houseboat — often accessible only by dirt roads or footpaths.
Water and mist frame the peninsula, with the Pacific Ocean to the west, the Strait of Juan de Fuca to the north and the Hood Canal to the east. The community here emphasizes the importance of this landscape to their livelihood. Not only do some draw their water for dishes and bathing from the creek down the hill, but many are also financially sustained by the land, working as farmers, fishermen and gardeners.
Though the members of this community all know each other, they reside in scattered locations — some shared, some individual. Several of the residents have an interest in anarchy and far-left politics, but there are no explicit ideologies that govern the inhabitants. Instead, they abide by unwritten guidelines of shared emotional and physical space.
These extend to, as Chris Gang, 30, tells it, “the idea that you can pee anywhere at any time. What comes along with that is a process of feeling less internal shame around what’s going on with your body, that there are parts of your body that are supposed to be private.” The compost toilet, in full view of the main cottage, illustrates his point (though there is a door installed for those who prefer privacy).
Mr. Gang, who has dramatic brows offset by bleached hair, believes that a resistance to bodily shame resonates with a longer history of queer intentional communities. “Queers have been creating chosen families forever, to the extent that we’ve been out of societal structures forever,” he said.
Maxfield Koontz, 28, a genderqueer farmer and basketry artist, also points to this history, deflecting the misunderstanding that “rural” and “queer” are incompatible identities. Soft-spoken and elegant,…