GA Voice

Hobbies Are for Everyone!

- Katie Burkholder

Confession: I am a serial hobbyist. I’m 23, so I’m in the phase of life marked by struggles to know who I am and what I like. Therefore, I’ve tried a lot of different hobbies: learning to play bass guitar; writing poetry and short stories; making zines; embroidery, crochet, jewelry; playing video games … I always manage to find something new to try.

While I consistent­ly dip into and out of hobbies without firmly committing to any for a long period of time, I’ve come to realize that I am always at my best when I am regularly engaging with whichever hobby of the month I have. When I’m spending my free time instead on Netflix, social media, or some other passive screen-based activity, I feel like a shell of a person, someone who has no discernibl­e identity outside of the content they consume. Needless to say, it feels like shit. I don’t think this is just a “me” thing. Many of my friends say they feel the same way, and yet almost every time we hang out, we commiserat­e about how much time we’ve been spending on TikTok.

Even though it can be difficult to force ourselves to do it, regularly engaging with a hobby has a ton of benefits. It’s good for your mental health, it’s a nonaddicti­ve or harmless way of spending time, and it allows for selfexplor­ation and self-expression. As seen from some of the articles in this issue, shared hobbies also create space for connection, community, and cooperatio­n.

There is a misconcept­ion that hobbies are only realistic for privileged people — people who have ample free time and disposable income to spend on expensive classes and materials. Of course, privilege always makes things easier and more accessible, but even taking an hour a week to do something you love is beneficial. As for funds, there are plenty of hobbies that don’t require a lot of money (see for yourself on page 14!). In fact, having a hobby you regularly engage in can also offer some solace from the harsh realities of capitalism.

In an episode of her podcast, The Happiness Lab, cognitive scientist Dr. Laurie Santos explains that choosing an activity that is fun, engaging, and encourages “flow” (that allencompa­ssing feeling of focus that makes time fly) over lounging around on Netflix is a more meaningful way of recharging outside of work. That’s because we view the opposite of work as rest when, in reality, it’s play.

When we aren’t working, we should be playing. Knitting a sweater, playing a game of basketball, doing a puzzle — whatever it is that makes you feel present and engaged in childlike fun and flow — is energizing and nutritious. It reaffirms your humanity and identity outside of your job, which, in a system determined to make you a mindless worker and consumer, can be a radical act. When we’re burned out, it’s tempting to just veg out on TV and TikTok and avoid using any brain power whatsoever. But you won’t come out of that day feeling rested and ready to work again. Chances are, like me, you’ll feel empty, stale, guilty, and just all-around gross.

However, if you find yourself spending most of your free time on social media or streaming services, but don’t have the nerve to delete them, you can simply adjust the way you engage: plan a fun photoshoot with your friends to post, do a creative makeup look and post a selfie, or watch a new movie with the intention of writing an in-depth Letterboxd review. If you participat­e mindfully, social media and TV can be much less draining and way more fun.

In short, hobbies are for everyone, regardless of interest, ability, or means. Everyone should be allowed to pursue their passions and regularly have some fun — including you. So, put down your phone, turn off the TV, read through this issue and maybe you’ll be inspired to pursue a pastime that’ll bring a little bit more pleasure into your life.

Georgia Senate Committee Passes Anti-Trans Sports Bill A bill banning transgende­r athletes from playing on teams aligning with their gender identity was passed by the Georgia Senate Education and Youth Committee on February 9.

SB 435 would make it unlawful for transgende­r women and girls to participat­e on women’s sports teams in Georgia public schools and participat­ing private schools whose teams compete against a public school.

The bill was introduced by Sen. Marty Harbin, who told the committee members the bill was about “fairness.” However, Sam Ames, the director of Advocacy and Government Affairs at the LGBTQ youth suicide prevention organizati­on The Trevor Project, says that “fairness and exclusion cannot exist.”

“There is nothing fair about powerful Georgia lawmakers’ working to exclude transgende­r students, who are already marginaliz­ed,” Ames said in a statement. “The nationwide wave of bills like these attacking our youth in school sports and doctor’s offices isn’t just making life even harder for young trans and nonbinary youth – a group that already faces higher rates of suicide risk than their peers – it’s also taking a serious toll on their mental health and wellbeing.”

The statistics reflect this: according to a recent poll conducted by The Trevor Project and Morning Consult, 85 percent of trans and nonbinary youth said recent debates about laws restrictin­g trans rights have negatively impacted their mental health. When asked about anti-trans sports policies, 74 percent of trans and nonbinary youth said it made them feel angry, 57 percent felt sad, 43 percent felt stressed, and nearly one in three felt scared.

The committee passed a similar bill also sponsored by Harbin last year, but it failed to reach the Senate floor. However, 2021 was a recording-breaking year for anti-transgende­r legislatio­n and similar bills are being passed in states nationwide. Last month, SB 46 was signed into law in South Dakota, banning trans girls from playing on girls’ sports teams. Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson, Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee, and Mississipp­i

Gov. Tate Reeves all signed similar bills into law as well, according to CNN.

More Gay and Lesbian People are Vaccinated than Straight People, CDC Finds Gay and lesbian adults in the U.S. have gotten the COVID-19 vaccine at a higher rate than their straight counterpar­ts, according to data released by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

According to the report, which collected data from more than 150,000 respondent­s, gay men and lesbians over the age of 18 were vaccinated with at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccinatio­n at a rate of 85.4 percent compared to 76.3 percent of their heterosexu­al counterpar­ts.

This higher rate reflects more confidence in the vaccines, as 76 percent of gay and lesbian adults stated they were either completely or very confident in the vaccine’s effectiven­ess, compared with 64 percent of straight respondent­s. 87 percent of bisexual adults believed getting the vaccine was somewhat or very important, compared to 90 percent of gay men and lesbians.

When broken down by gender identity, the data revealed “no significan­t difference­s” in vaccinatio­n rates.

Across the board, Black individual­s were less likely to have been vaccinated than white individual­s — particular­ly among gay men and lesbians. Whereas 91.7 percent of white gay men and lesbian had been vaccinated, 66.8 percent of Black gay men and lesbians had. According to a study on racial disparitie­s in COVID-19 vaccinatio­n, this disparity is not due to “vaccine hesitancy” but instead factors like socioecono­mic background and political ideology. This aligns with the CDC’s data: 74.3 percent of gay men and lesbians living below the poverty line had received the vaccine compared to 94.3 percent of those making more than $75,000 a year.

Moderna Launches Trial Testing New mRNA HIV Vaccine Moderna, the biotechnol­ogy company responsibl­e for one of the COVID-19 vaccines, has begun its phase 1 trial of an experiment­al HIV vaccine that utilizes the company’s mRNA technology used to create the COVID-19 vaccine.

The first participan­t in the trial took their first dose on January 27. The trial, called IAVI G002, is testing a vaccine that delivers HIV-specific antigens to the body with the intention of inducing an immune response. In a “proof-of-concept” trial last year, the research team found the HIV antigens produced the desired immune response in 97 percent of participan­ts. The new trial is being conducted in partnershi­p with IAVI, a nonprofit scientific research organizati­on.

“We are tremendous­ly excited to be advancing this new direction of HIV vaccine design with Moderna’s mRNA platform,” Mark Feinberg, IAVI’s president and CEO, said in a press release from Moderna. “The search for an HIV vaccine has been long and challengin­g, and having new tools in terms of immunogens and platforms could be the key to making rapid progress toward an urgently needed, effective HIV vaccine.”

IAVI G002 will follow 56 HIV-negative adult participan­ts. 48 of the volunteers will receive at least one dose, 32 will also receive the booster, and the remaining eight will receive the booster alone. The Hope Clinic of Emory Vaccine Center is one of four sites across the country hosting the trial.

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 ?? PHOTO BY PEXELS.COM ?? If SB 435 is passed and signed into law, transgende­r girls in Georgia public schools will be prohibited from participat­ing on girls’ sports teams.
PHOTO BY PEXELS.COM If SB 435 is passed and signed into law, transgende­r girls in Georgia public schools will be prohibited from participat­ing on girls’ sports teams.

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