Not many people would imagine a queer community thriving on a Colorado alpaca ranch, but that's exactly what you'll find when you visit the Tenacious Unicorn Ranch.
The land serves as a place of solace and respite for LGBTQ+ people. It's where many trans people have come for refuge in a world increasingly marred by transphobia.
The story of the Tenacious Unicorn Ranch began in 2018 when co-owner Penny Logue was searching for avenues to help the trans community.
"I was really looking at ways to help stem the homelessness problem and the jobless problem that was being created by [the Trump] administration," she says.
Logue and a couple of friends discovered some land in Colorado and rented it. That situation didn't work out, so they eventually made their way to Westcliffe, Colo., and fell in love with the area. Now they are there raising and shearing alpacas and building an open and accepting community.
The ranch is currently home to 174 alpacas, with many of them rescues from other farms. Logue says she was drawn to alpacas because they were no-kill animals that live to be about 20. There was also something about how the animals provide clothing material that resonated with Logue. The fur from the alpaca can make a sizable amount of money for the ranch too.
The animals on the farm have helped the ranch win a significant social media following, and several volunteers at the ranch have found the queer anarchist enclave through social media.
"We're really excited about what [the ranch] has become and where it's going," Logue says.
"From the beginning of this, the goal was to put a Tenacious Unicorn in every state so that queer people have access," she explains. "My timeline for that was 15 years down the road. I was trying to be a good businesswoman and not overpredict."
But the mission and idea for the ranch caught hold. Logue says it isn't anything they were doing intentionally. It's something that's been needed in the trans and queer community. The growth has been organic. Bonnie Nelson, co-owner of the ranch, says the idea wasn't new, but the implementation was.
"It's almost sort of a meme within trans communities that people want to create a commune and kind of get away from everything and live a little freer than they do in regular life," Nelson says.
The ranch serves as a refuge for folks for a day at a time or for several weeks, depending on what the person going there needs and what the ranch can manage. Some people come and just spend a day doing chores around the ranch, while others escape their everyday lives to come to the ranch to transition in a safe place. Once a year, dozens of volunteers come for a few days to help the ranchers sheer the alpacas.
Logue remembers a recent day when some leftists came from Oakland, Calif., just to spend a day at the ranch. "They were kind of burnt from the world, but they left with an energy, like, 'Good shit's happening. Stay the course; we got this,'" she recalls.
"Watching the community response and watching how people react to what we're doing out here has justified any hardship we may have faced," Logue says. "It's why we go so hard."
Last year, however, the ranch started receiving online threats. Volunteer guards had to patrol the area after a couple of armed people came onto the Tenacious Unicorn property. The ranchers at Tenacious Unicorn have guns, and many there know how to shoot.
At the end of the day, the ranch is a big family. And Logue, Nelson, and the others are prepared to defend it.
"When you treat others like family and really care and are there for their needs and are open to talk, that builds community itself," Nelson says. "We all do what we can for each other and keep our best interest at heart and move forward like that."
The Tenacious Unicorn crew has been working with other groups to form other Tenacious Unicorns across the U.S., including working with Indigenous queer groups.
"We have a lot on the horizon for us," Logue says.
This story is part of The Advocate's 2021 Film and TV issue, which is out on newsstands October 5, 2021. To get your own copy directly, support queer media and subscribe -- or download yours for Amazon, Kindle, Nook, or Apple News.