You sent us your submissions. Today, we present to you the winners of the inaugural Summer of Love essay contest.

We had to sift through an incredible volume of pieces from all walks of life in Berkeley. Queer and non-normative perspectives reigned supreme. The hippies of the original Summer of Love 50 years ago would have wanted nothing more.

Our finalists are as follows: Alex Gomez’s essay comes in third place. Louisa Dewey’s essay comes in second. The first place winner of the Summer of Love essay contest is Lauren Parker. Congrats to all the winners and a big “thank you” to everyone for the submissions.

There’s nothing more freeing than our queer love

Being in a queer relationship when a lot of people in the world are against us, including our own parents, is itself revolutionary. It’s always been a political statement to walk down the street holding her hand and kissing her in public. It’ll be something I’m forever thankful for  being queer and having her.

— Alex Gomez,
Third Place

The divine revelation of self-love in unexpected places

I remember I stopped to rest against the pillar of a blue church: there was God again. I could hear the less-than-dulcet tones of Christian rock music through an open window, so I gratefully stubbed out my cigarette, fixed the straps of my sandals, and went around to the front doors to check it out. I usually hate that stuff — religion with any sort of catchy charisma makes me want to barf. It’s like Max Liebermann said when he saw the Nazis marching past his front door: “I could not possibly eat as much as I would like to throw up.” But my curiosity had the better of me, so I took the steps two at a time, just hoping to linger in the doorway for a moment and see if I felt moved by the presence of God.

— Louisa Dewey
Second Place

Chosen families refuse to quit

This is what I know about love: the platonic variety is the only kind that’s worth anything because we don’t expect to get anything out of it.

I usually roll my eyes when people talked about others as “like a sister” or “like a brother.” Brian isn’t my brother, he’s something else, and watching his body and mind break over and over again made me quieter, softer, more desperate. The sort of love you slip under the door, giving the receiver the option to ignore it.

— Lauren Parker,
First Place

Justin Knight is the opinion editor. Contact him at [email protected].

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