In 2007, when I was 19, my Bisabuela (great-grandmother) passed away. She was a venerable matriarch; relatives from as far away as her native Ecuador flew to southern Ohio to celebrate her life. It was the single largest funeral I have ever attended.

As it happened, this was shortly after I got my first buzz cut. I loved it. It gave me an early taste of what I later know as “gender euphoria” — the feeling you get when you look, feel, or are accepted as the gender you identify with on the inside. A feeling I would later associate…

Content warning: mental illness, fictitious violence, suicide, and a brief discussion of current events

Breakfast of Champions, on the counter at Waffle House

I first read Breakfast of Champions by Kurt Vonnegut when I was in my preteens. I was way, way too young to understand it, but I did recognize that it was probably the best work of literature I had encountered thus far. I had recently come up with the idea of being a writer, and this book influenced my early attempts at fiction in a way that wasn’t especially productive — for instance, I borrowed Vonnegut’s bold choice to insert himself into the narrative and interact…

Ah, 2020. It’s election year! And the presidential campaigns are already well under way. All this democracy sure gives me a warm, fuzzy feeling inside. Or maybe that’s an oncoming fever. Come to think of it, my roommate just visited China…

Okay, let’s think about something else. I haven’t thought about ancient history in a while. When I was a kid, I used to love dressing in a bedsheet toga and pretending I lived in Ancient Athens. It was a delightful indulgence. I think I’ll brush off my history books and engage in some healthy educational escapism…

I’m sure this is what it was like.

Imagine Ancient Athens…

I would like to tell you some things about my new favorite video game, but first I’d like to tell you about my first favorite video game.

I still have the disk. It doesn’t work anymore.

Diablo II was the game that turned me into a gamer.

I’d played computer games before, of course. First it was childen’s educational games that, in the 90s, were all the rage for middle- and upper-middle class families who knew computers were the future of the new world economy and wanted their children to get a head start in using them, or at least to get away with spending less time helping us…

This is a story about how I stopped caring if my potential employers see what I post online. There will be some sexual content.

Photo by Caleb Woods on Unsplash

I have one major social media account that I use for almost all my social media needs: my personal facebook account. It has my “real” name on it (“real” in the legal sense as well as in the sense that it’s the name most people call me in “real life.”) It’s the name I’m known by at work, at home, among friends, and as a writer. It’s the same name I use in youtube comments and…

Patricia Taxxon didn’t get name-dropped in this essay but she’s good too.

Lately it’s become more and more clear that one of my favorite kinds of media these days is media criticism and commentary. In fact, I recently came to admit that I enjoy film criticism more than I enjoy movies. I also enjoy video game criticism and commentary more than I enjoy video games, and while I have almost zero interest in any television series of the past decade, I will gladly watch an hour of analysis and interpretation of Game of Thrones or The Office or Breaking Bad.

My favorite critics and commentators do their work on Youtube, in video…

Photo by HelpStay.com on Unsplash

Content warning: potty language, toilet talk, and bathroom issues.

My cousin once told me that having to go to the bathroom and being unable is one of the worst, most awkward feelings a person could feel. At the time I was a teen and she was a preteen, and I was pretty sure I knew better: I’d felt feelings like sexual frustration, the agony of rejection, not to mention severe depression and anxiety that would soon bloom into full-blown suicidality over the course of my twenties. …

Photo by mana5280 on Unsplash

Say you love nature and animals, and that has led you to consider yourself a conservationist as well as an animal rights advocate. If you don’t personally hold those values, then try to consider the perspective of someone who does.

Now imagine you’re given a choice: whether to kill a hundred animals, or ten animals. Obviously you choose to only kill ten, if you must choose, since ten lives clearly can’t outweigh a hundred.

Now imagine that the hundred animals are chickens, the ten animals are the last ten of an endangered species of tropical bird, so that once they’re…

Photo by Esteban Lopez on Unsplash

In this life, we’ve each been dealt a hand of cards, and the only way we can influence the outcome of the game is by when and how we play those cards. Some cards are more powerful than others. The wealth card can be played in more ways and to greater benefit than most others. The whiteness card is usually played automatically whether you mean it or not. Some cards, though, are tricky: they’ll usually cause some manner of drawback, whether you play them or not, and there’s only a few circumstances where they can be a benefit. Among those…

I started this journey of essays on Medium with one called “The Last Thing I Will Ever Say About Freedom of Speech.” I admitted that the title was a bit of an exaggeration, but thus far I’ve stayed true to it in the sense that I’ve written about speech and its various consequences, without directly addressing the concept of free speech, because as I said in that original essay, I believe “freedom of speech” these days serves as a rhetorical buzzword that distracts from the actual conversation that people are trying to have with their freedom of speech, especially in…

Sy Castells

I write essays about social issues. My patreon: https://www.patreon.com/sycastells

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