Photo: Jodie Gallagher

What is the purpose, the lure, of communal living? Why have the residents of different communes in United States chosen isolation over convenience? In these five stories, you’ll meet men and women—many, members in the LGBTQIA+ community—who have chosen, with mixed results, to dedicate themselves to their chosen families.

1. “They Built It. No One Came.” (Penelope Green, New York Times, May 2015)

They changed their names and called themselves the Harmonists, rescuing and repurposing Colonial-era dwellings in Pennsylvania. Their numbers never swelled more than two. Can Zephram and Johannes make peace with their failed enterprise?

2. “Out of the Woods.” (Alex Halberstadt, New York Times Magazine, August 2015)

Cannon County, Tennessee—where the Bible belt is tightest—is “home to what is almost certainly the largest, oldest, best known and most visited planned community for lesbian, gay and transgender people in the country, a place that one local described to me as a veritable Gayberry, U.S.A.”

Alex Halberstadt profiles several men who live on the Commune and delves into the relationship between these tight-knit communities—one staunchly Evangelical Christian, one with “a spot called Sex Change Ridge, a network of hiking trails called the Fruit Loop and a functionary called the Empress”—and the role of Neal Applebaum, one of the Commune’s most prominent residents, in both communities.

3. “In This Plutocrat’s Playground of a City, It’s Good to Know There’s Still a Commune to Call Home.” (Laurie Penny, The New Statesman, July 2015)

Laurie Penny isn’t a hippy—she just lives with them. And she loves it.

4. “Slouching Towards Babylon.” (Anna McConnell, Rookie, June 2013)

The author’s body betrays her extreme discomfort with commune life, but she’s torn about her decision to return to New York City.

5. “What Living on a Queer Commune in Rural Oregon is Like.” (Vanessa Friedman, Nylon, March 2015)

“In a world that is steeped in digital media, it feels like a radical act to carve out a physical space and call it ours. The internet has provided a safe space for millions of young queers who may have no where else to turn in their small towns or their conservative families or their own total confusion, it’s true, but I want those people to know there are places where we can meet face to face, get our hands dirty together, fight and fuck and listen and forgive and live, without any screens to separate us.”