Home » Podcast » Zac Cannell, a trans man, talks openly about his lived experience

Zac Cannell, a trans man, talks openly about his lived experience


In this week’s episode, Josh is talking to Zac Cannell who was a Finalist in the 2017 7NEWS Young Achiever Awards for South Australia.

Zac Cannell is a Sexual Health Counsellor for SHINE SA and has over a decade of experience working with young people, particularly in the areas of mental health, sexual health and human rights advocacy. He is a Master Youth Mental Health First Aid Instructor with qualifications including a Bachelor of Social Work with Honours and a Masters in Mental Health Practice.

Zac, who has lived experience as a transgender man, is well known in the LGBTIQA+ community as a prominent advocate, educator, public speaker, facilitator of groups, and an allied health professional.  He is often requested to speak on the topics of health and inclusion, particularly in working with the gender diverse community and safer client engagement.


In this episode:

  • We learnt some real-life experiences about how public places, such toilets and footy crowds are not inclusive for the transgender community and are in fact, downright scary most of the time
  • What is Mental Health First Aid training? We get to hear all about it
  • When you transition, how do you choose your name? Zac tells us his story


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NOTE: The info for Zac’s 2019, Mr Adelaide Leather is on both of these Facebook groups

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Welcome to the inspirational Australian’s podcast, where we chat to people making a difference in their communities and in the lives of others and here is your host today, Josh Griffin. Thanks Annette, and for this week’s dose of inspiration, I’m really looking forward to speaking to Zac, but before we get there, I just want to mention a couple of things. We’ve had the Young Achiever Awards happening throughout the country, so please do check out our Facebook pages. Easily find them at 7News, Young Achiever Awards in your state, if you want to see your state or check out some other states as well, we wrapped up Northern Territory Victoria, and at the time this episode goes to air, I’m sure that New South Wales and maybe even some others have gone ahead as well. So some really inspirational people that we’ve been able to celebrate share their journeys, and some of those are actually going to be featured on this podcast in times to come. So I make sure you do head to inspirational Australians. You can find us on Apple podcast, Google podcast, Spotify, and a few other places. So make sure you subscribe and you don’t miss any of those episodes. Another place you can find some really good video content is on our YouTube page. Now, that’s not inspirational Australians just to confuse you, that’s the Awards Australia youtube page. And we’re featuring some great videos and stories of some of the winners. So check that out. Now under today’s guest, as I said before, his name is Zac and looking forward to speaking to Zac Cannell, he was actually a finalist in 2017, in the South Australian Young Achiever Awards in the Websters Lawyers Service to the Community Awards to kind of sum up zach buyeo would be impossible, he’s done so much. And I’m just lucky that we’ve got some time. And zach this morning on a public holiday to chat about it. But I guess the one thing I do want to introduce is zach works at shinsei was employed as a sexual health counselor. And part of the role there is acknowledging the unique perspective that can bring being a person of trans lived experience and also a qualified counselor. So just beautifully placed to be helping people and making an impact. And I’m going to throw the nasdaq welcome, and thanks for your time. Thanks for having me. So zach i want to give you an opportunity now I want you to, if you can just tell us a bit about yourself and I guess that would give you too much of a, this is your story situation, but you know a bit about yourself and how you’ve come to be employed at a SHINE SA. Yeah. So I finished high School and kind of wasn’t sure where I was going. I spent a bit of time working in retail and kind of then was like, ok, i want to work in retail or do I want to do something? And I was volunteering with my local council at the time and decided to go into a foreign mental health and was Yeah, actually one of the development offices at the local council who kind of helped me push me towards community Services in particular mental health. Where I spent a bit of time working for a local youth, mental health services there for about six or seven years. Yeah, I was very lucky that I was then just sort of moving through. I finished my Bachelor of Social work and was kind of like, ok, what’s the next chapter in my professional career and where do I see myself? And I just come out as transgender and have started my transition to, to my more authentic myself had another position in the interim where I was working as a case manager again with young people. And 18 months later landed at SHINE SA. So SHINE SA stands for sexual health information networking and education in South Australia, and yeah, the role is really broad, but quite a bit of my work because of my limited experience is around working with the LGBTQA+ community and in particular transgender individuals. But it encompasses quite a lot, it’s everything from healthy relationships and consent dynamics, through to pelvic pain, concerns and sexual health related issues like things like erectile dysfunction or premature ejaculation through to disability education and information. But a lot of that also overlap. Some of the not so nice things that can come with sexual health. So unfortunately things like being a survivor of rape or sexual assault. But it’s, it’s a really unique service position to work within a team of doctors as well as specialists, the hiv education and awareness program, which somesh as well as a public library just across the corridor for me. But they can come in and grab resources. So yeah, the SHINE SA and the counselling role, it’s a really nice wraparound overlapping a lot of just community concerns as well as mental health issues and then the sexual health overload as well. So Zac, sounds like it was really interesting timing there in terms of you were doing your own study and getting into working with youth and mental health. At the same time you mentioned you were transitioning to your more authentic self. Did you have someone like you like you to kind of lean on because you sound like you’re in the perfect position to help people who were going through just what you were Not. Not hugely when I came out coming up almost eight years ago now, the transgender community was very much not spoken about and it wasn’t in the media like it is now and sometimes in the media for great reasons. But yeah, there wasn’t a lot of services. There wasn’t many community groups. It was really poor timing about three weeks after I started searching for the local community. I made a phone call to a local youth service and was told, oh no, sorry, the group actually finished a month ago. So yeah, that was, that was rough, but I did. Through a mutual friend. I met a, another local transgender woman. And her partner is a trans man. So yeah, I got to meet her and her my partner. And yeah, that was a lad named Shaun. And yeah, he and I then went on to sort of work around what supports and resources are out there. And we were looking at another community service. And yeah, and I think it’s about three years later we decided to start a group at the time was named FTMale SA. So that was very much when the acronym female to male ftm was still kind of in use. But most people are now familiar with it. And it’s much more inclusive name of trans masc SA, yeah, so yeah, there was very little visibility back then. Yeah, I’m not going to what’s the word? I’m not going to imagine what it was like because I’ve got you to talk to but was that kind of lonely until you met Shaun and had that someone who could relate to what you were going through? Yeah, it was quite isolating. There was sort of, you know, you’re sitting on this journey, you’re going, I don’t feel like within myself and I don’t, I don’t like who I am essentially, and I was in a really low place at that point. But I know I’ve watched a few videos on YouTube and I knew that there was other people like me, but it was just kind of I had no one local to talk to, you know, no one to go. Oh, this is where you can go buy resources or this is a friendly doctors and counselors you can go see and you know, there was no way like if you, if you want to learn how to do this particular thing to help, you know, maybe if your identity people. Yeah. There was, there was nobody, there was no real Facebook groups. Facebook was still in its infancy then as well were, I think, with only a couple of years ago crossed over from Myspace. Groups and things didn’t exist the way they do now. It was, it was pretty lonely. It’s so different now you’re right. We probably could be easier to take it for granted with just how easy it is to connect with someone on the other side of the world who and now we have to search for these things now. Yeah, I mean I started a group with a few, a few friends and we, we very quickly skyrocketed. I think the groups now past eighteen thousand members around the world, just a private Facebook group. But now there’s Discord channels and there’s Facebook groups and messenger groups. And it’s really cool, there’s so many more ways to connect. And there’s loads of youtube videos like local people, just everyday people doing unboxing videos of resources, you know, first time wearing a binder and how it feels and tips and tricks on how to to come out and disclose and stay safe about your identity. It’s, it’s incredible. Yeah. Speaking of coming out about it was Yeah. And let me know if you prefer not to talk about anything, but how was that with, with your own family and friends and making that kind of you know, having that discussion with them. I was pretty lucky with my family. My. My parents are amazing. They’ve been so supportive through pretty much everything that I’ve thrown at them. And when I, I came out to my to my parents. I think it was like a Saturday night or something like that. And I sat down super serious at the kitchen table and was like I need to tell you something and mom kind of in jest was like let me guess you’re a guy and I’m like yeah kind of would guess mhm: yeah and spot on so dad on the other hand took a little while to warm around. I think just as he is his first born child and the, the oldest daughter he was kind of like, I think he was kind of grieving a little bit. There was this sort of adjustment period as well as you know, this is, you know, for the last twenty five years you’ve been you’ve been my little girl some. Yeah, for that it took a little while, but when I told him that I asked my mom what name I wanted to take. And she was like, so I was originally looking at Tobias, i quite like the shortened version of Toby. But I was like, well, you know that if you were born a guy, we already had the name Zac picked up. Really and the name Zac is actually, it’s just the three letters that I see and it’s an acronym in itself. So my initials spell my name, It’s Zack Allen, Cannell and Allen is my dad’s name. So when I said to him, I’d actually really like to do that. Yeah, I think that helped bring down a little bit closer and ever since he’s been one of my biggest supporters, like every birthday he sends me a happy birthday son. And yeah, he’s, my parents are amazing. I’m very lucky. You literally gave me goosebumps then zach on. My arm like that is a beautiful story about and just the connection and the fact that yeah, your mom was like explaining all of that. That’s really nice. And it’s really cool . Yeah. And super meaningful. Like about you talk about your identity, you authentic self. It sounds like it was meant to be.Yeah. It was, it was an amazing experience. My, you know, my parents, my kind of not surprised to me. There was lots of little things like the history that I could pinpoint. Yeah. And that’s not the same for everyone, like many people that I’ve met and worked with their, you know, their stories uniquely different that from my parents it didn’t come as much of a surprise. I was always sort of more tomboyish. I guess I was the language back then. But yeah, it was cool. Yeah. Well, thanks for sharing that story because I think, you know, for some people different ways of living a foreign to them. It could be anything. It could be. Yeah. simple things. complicated things, whatever it is, and just hearing people’s stories and their experiences and it’s just lets us all learn more. It lets us all understand what other people are going through in their life. And everyone’s just the same. We’re all just humans that want to be saying we want to be, we want to be happy in our selves. And so yeah, yeah, that’s brilliant and kind of before I forget, I did want to ask this question. I do this all the time, so I should have my notebook handy. But you said earlier tran masc was the common term. So that’s M-A-S-C, right? Yeah. So that’s kind of a masculine shortened. Yeah. Yeah. So when we talk about male as an identity masculine, it’s an expression. So for example, in the trans masculine group, we’ve got folks and therefore identify as non binary or by their own gender fluid or gender genderqueer. So we’ve got those who identify as trans masculine, it’s a really individual sort of self label. The idea of being the trans masc is kind of an umbrella term. The unique thing that brings everybody together is that they were all assigned or presumed female. But they don’t identify in that sense. And yeah, yep. And that was, you know, good messaging before this and that was the acronym you use a AFAB and that’s what you were saying. It assigned female at birth and presumed female. That’s what that means, isn’t it? Yeah, yeah, so assigned, you’ll often hear the transgender diverse community kind of use them a little bit interchangeably. That’s a bit of a movement to, to move towards presumed female at birth, it’s that kind of language between assumption and presumption. That old english language, or by the assigned female of birth is kind of incorrect. And we use that more in terms of the intersex community, particularly where a young person when they’re born, has been medically assigned a sex or gender based on the doctor at the time. So we know that there’s a lot of human rights issues with the intersex community to move away from interfering with children where it’s not medically required. Yeah, that’s where that language in assigned sex birth comes from. Are assigned gender at birth and presumed is kind of like, oh yeah, you pick the kid up and you are looking at the genitals we can go that’s a pretty sad presumption that that’s a girl or a boy. Yeah. Makes sense? Yeah. So speaking of presumed gender at birth, can you tell me a little bit about the work that you’ve done Zac, you’re part of an advocacy group that got the birth deaths and marriages as legislation amended, can you describe what that was, how it came about and yeah, and I guess, you know, it for me as well, explaining what the outcome, what that means? Yeah. It was an incredible experience. So and not always in the good sense the, the legislation was called the sex reassignment act back in 1988 when it was put into place. It was, it was fantastic. Like, and an older person be able to access health Care. It enabled a person to be able to legally change their gender marker on their birth certificate, but the requirements were strict. You would have to go through this process and it was costly and it was invasive. And when we look at things like the human rights as it was, it was unethical. So let me interject a little bit, so if I was to, if I wanted to change the gender on my birth certificate, what would be like one or two of the main options that I had back? Well, yeah, back when that legislation was in place, you were required to have a irreversible surgical procedure that affirmed your gender. So for trans folk that often meant that they were fortunate enough to, to get away with things like chest surgery, where they would have the breast, tissue reconstructed, and consoled. But that would often mean for a trans feminine community that they were looking at things like to vagina removal and vaginoplasty and things like that was much more invasive. The law was different across each region. So New South Wales, for example, they haven’t got the legislation changed yet. And it requires things like chest surgery and a hysterectomy for a trans guy. So you’re forced to be surgically sterilized essentially. When this was changed, well, before you would get this process, you would have to go to a psychiatrist and you would have to be medically diagnosed with gender dysphoria or back at this point in time it was gender identity disorder. So it’s very mythologising and basically again, the message is that you’ve got something wrong with you and we need to diagnose. Yeah, exactly. So you would go through to the psychiatrist and you would go on hormone therapy, once you meet the criteria of a psychiatrist, and you would then spend 12 months sort of on hormone therapy doing this lived experience kind of thing, which again is now gone generally, thankfully, you would then be approved and referred to a particular surgeon. We’ve only got three surgeons in the state, and we can do this work with that station. It was only the one you would meet the surgeon and do the thing. Once you’ve had your surgery, had to go back to the psychiatrist. You have to get an affidavit signed off. You had to get a second affidavit from the surgeon to say that yes, they’ve done the procedure. You have to apply to the courts and to births, deaths, and marriages. You have to go before a judge and mine was really unfortunate the day that I went normally, it would be in closed chambers at which the year of a judge and a witness. The day that I went, the judge that was supposed to be the one doing it was unwell. So I had to go before an open court. Yeah. thankfully it was just the judge security, the type of person. It was a fancy name for that stenographer. Maybe I’m trying to remember that that’s the one. Yeah, I know it started with the mess. I’m like, it’s not a stenographer that’s the ultrasound. So yeah, and there was a couple of people sort of just sitting in the waiting area and it was surreal. But it is an absolute. You waited 20 days after back then got a gender recognition certificate. Then you go back to births, deaths, and marriages, and then they would be like, ok cool, here’s your birth certificate. Well, so, and that was there was a time frame, so they went with each of those things. So it took about six months and about six, seven hundred dollars later. The process now, three hundred and eighty dollars to change a name and gender marker together. You go to your doctor or to a clinical psychologist, the practitioner goes, yep. You’ve met the requirements, which is essentially we’ve undertaken one hundred and eighteen minutes of clinical counseling. You understand that you’re changing a legal document and that comes with benefits as well as risks, and you’re making an informed decision. And now you can have male female. You can have an x gender marker which indicates non binary and gender diverse. Or if you’re part of the intersex community, you can have, well, it’s not a great term government kind of was okay with our recommendation on this. But it’s yet indeterminate. Now at least we know that from the intersex human rights perspective, we’ve still got a long way to go, yet unless it meant that there was no longer a requirement for hormone therapy, we know that of many transgender. They don’t want hormone therapy, they can’t access it for many reasons. And there was no requirement for surgery either. So it was a self affirmed model and enabled a person to actually have full autonomy. So yeah, it seems to me that that’s a really positive result, is hat kind of how it’s viewed? Yeah it’s, it’s much, much better. And I mean the process in getting there, you know, there was petitions and there was meetings in parliament and there was lots of letter writing. And there was lots of letters to the editor in the paper and Facebook petitions and change log all petitions. But it was worth it. Yeah. We have all done that must be a good feeling to be part of something like that that that’s bigger than yourself as well. That’s making a huge difference with so many people. It’s one of those things. It’s like, it seems like it’s something so simple just to be able to change the letter on a, on a piece of paper. But the impact that that has on a person’s life and well-being it’s, it’s an incredible feeling to be part of such, such a history moment. Yeah. And I might be asking a question that is difficult to answer, but do, you know, is South Australia quite an early adopter of that type of move, or is it something that that’s already happening here in Australia? I think we were actually the second, I think the ACT had done it first. They usually only get in then. Yeah, you sort of sit there and you like the home of parliament where it’s usually so difficult to do anything that you’re quite progressive. But I mean, federally this alert you’ve been in place since 2013. So there was a document that was the australian government guidelines for the sex and gender recognition and it was you could essentially change everything at the federal level. So you flybys card to your passport with just a letter from a doctor there was and it clearly stipulated hormones and surgery were not a prerequisite. Why are the states took so long to adopt this and why some still happens is just yes, it’s confusing. It is, but yeah, South Australia was the second and I think after that I think it’s Victoria and then Tasmania and tasmania went one step further. I took the ability to go ok. We can take gender off of the birth certificate altogether because I’m still collecting it all still better. You just need to be on the piece of paper. Yeah, that’s true when you think about what, what it’s there for. And I guess when it gets referenced, that doesn’t, yeah, I mean they still write it down earth and they still count it in all the census information. It just doesn’t need to be on a piece of paper. And when you go and get your driver’s license because it’s not on their either yeah. And speaking of South Australia, one thing it’s synonymous with the South in Adelaide is the Crows and I understand. Yeah, for me personally, let’s take a lot. It takes a lot to me to bring up the Crows voluntarily, a palace of water, but so I won’t hold it against you. Understand that you’ve done some work with with that with the football club, the. Can you tell us about that? Yeah, for a couple of years I was very fortunate to work alongside the Adelaide Football Club as part of an official support group called the Rainbow, Crows. It was Brett Mceleney who started it a few years back. I think it’s now five years old. And the idea of the group was to essentially create a safe space for people in the rainbow community to enjoy the football. So yeah, as part of the Rainbow Crows, we would sort of work to acknowledge that in amongst the men’s league, for example, we don’t have a single out person. There is not one guy in the men’s afl league that has disclosed, he is of a different sexual orientation. That’s all we know that there are players we we’re aware at a grassroots level that that is not publicly out. Yeah. Even just from a, you know, you mentioned the census earlier, like you talk about the percentage of the population that has to be socially. Yeah It would be would be good to to hear those stories. But I guess it’s still such a boys club kind of situation in the AFL that people are perhaps comfortable to, to make. So a lot of people, you know, when we started this group, when Brett started this work I came aboard, it was that notion of, you know, why are you making so political? And it’s like, well, my life isn’t political until other people make it. So I just want to live and when you go to the football, you would hear a lot of slurs and you would hear a lot of toxic, horrible language that made people feel really unsafe. We know that men are unfortunately responsible for a lot of, of that language and a lot of violence and they’ve got a lot to be accountable for and  Brett creating this group helped launch that platform that in amongst that like football club that, that kind of behavior wasn’t ok. And the club was really receptive. They made an official supportive group that helped support the sponsors of the group. And worked with the AFL to create videos and things like that, that raise the awareness that we exist and that we’re not trying to create this being queer. mean, we don’t have a gay agenda. I’m still trying to work out what the gay agenda is. If you find out, let me know But it was, you know, we just wanted a safe space where we could be ourselves and not hear, know, horrible slurs being yelled at the players or the umpires, allegedly, if it was fantastic. Now that is great. It is funny, it’s not funny actually at all, but with the, the footy, I remember as a kid, you come along and one of the things that’s just totally normal is just yelling out that the umpire is a megahed. And you know what I mean? Like that’s just normal everyone and they did it and like that’s fine. You just abuse umpire. Don’t worry about it. Yeah. And I mean, I know of people don’t like umpires and you know, there are many times where i’ve gone blind, of course, but it’s like, why do we then put this incessant bullying on it like this? You might not agree with that decision, but that’s a human being like back home at the end of the game and you know, they have to live with hearing those things yelled at them day in and day out and the players like if they miss a goal like they’re booed and they heckled when people have been yelling out, homophobic and transphobia slurs. It’s like that’s, that’s not cool. Very true. Which I remember the name of the umpire, the one he’s quite famous, actually he’s got the nickname. This is a bad story. I have to look it up. Now his name is umpire, I’ve met him and he spoke at an event i went to and you know, they’re just trying their hardest on the umpires. Anyway, it is one of the language and the abuse and the slurs. Yeah, it’s not required. It’s not so well, reliquaries just as good as a game, if you stamp out all of that stuff and it’ll be better because it’ll be more inclusive. Exactly like people just want to go and just be able to launch an amazing game with their friends and family. That’s it. So the Rainbow Crows is, you know, we were the first ones to march mardi gras. We, we actually had a dedicated float where we went to sydney and we raise the profile that we’ve been able to to hold the banner. And we stood on the grounds of programs and now my role as the diversity inclusion officer at the time was trying to promote and get that visibility out there. So getting trans and gender diverse people who have been using bathrooms in any public situation as a gender diverse person can be terrifying, let alone the football, making sure that people felt that they could be themselves. And by being so blatantly there and in amongst you know, a little group of people who were not so in a little group by the time we got a couple of years in it was fantastic. And the, the official Adelaide football club supporters group embraced us with open arms. And if you ever get the chance to go along like that, do regular ticket held games, things like that. Go, it’s incredible. The atmosphere and the support and the camaraderie. And just being able to be yourself, it’s an unforgettable experience. What a great way to, to get to experience the footy, as you said. Yeah. And nothing better than a live game. Now can I ask from your perspective, you touched on safety and I know that can be a significant issue for people who are feeling unsafe in terms of bathrooms and things like that. What is the, the safest or the most comfortable life for you and people who are trans male or the other way trans female to do that it’s, it’s difficult. I mean, I’ll acknowledge that as a trans guy. My experience is from about three months on testosterone therapy. I recall I was in the Maya Center in Rundle mall in the city and kind of was like, I need to go to the bathroom. I can’t wait till I get home. The, I don’t want you using the accessible bathroom. I know that many transgender people I spoke to me because it’s a single soul bathroom. That’s a busy public place that can feel okay for me. So I went to walk into the women’s bathroom, hoping that I was just kind of like to walk in and out and this adorable little kid just kind of, I probably would have only been about maybe five or six. So we opened the door at the exact same time and she was like, you know, this is the girls bathroom and it was just like the most innocent thing like this and I kind of was like, oh, it’s the moment like, what do I do? What do I do? So I was like, oh, sorry and that was the first moment where I didn’t have a chance to overthink it. I just walked into the guy’s bathroom, had no clue what I was looking at or doing. walked straight into a stall and peed, washed my hands and left and was just like I got out into the food court sat down and was just like, oh my God, that happened. It was so overwhelming experience that everything was on the fly. So I didn’t have a chance to overthink it and get super anxious about it. But I know that for many of my friends, family and community like bathrooms are a huge issue for many trans guys. We because testosterone is such a powerful hormone, where we’re very, very fortunate. Nobody thinks that I was born female when they look at me but for trans women, they’re often, they may be taller, their voice maybe deeper. Testosterone is a a powerful puberty to go through it and many of those identifying factors that come with that being on medication and an estrogen medication may not be able to overcome that. And we know that when it comes to the media, that a lot of the demonization that comes with being transgender diverse is aimed at trans women, particularly trans women of color. When it comes to safety, with the advocacy is around protecting trans women because there was a high risk of violence and assault. We know the media often perpetuates that this, this is men trying to get into women’s spaces. And similarly in football, clubs, and sports and things like that, we saw the hatred again to paramountcy. People just want to go to the bathroom, they just want to be able to do their thing just like every other human being on the planet does. And go about their daily life bathrooms and change rooms that a really scary place and they shouldn’t be. Yeah. Need to be. So you know, a little bit more often now when there’s new cafes and restaurants, it’s not everywhere, but it’s a trend that I’ve noticed and I wonder if this is silly, maybe just walking around, living my life as a white heterosexual male with the easiest life in the world. This seems to be a lot more now unisex where you can go in and it’s just open up and there’s five individual for however big or small doors. And it’s just like you just use redeployment and inside it is the tap in the toilet. That just seems like a no brainer from now on new building, new stuff being built. So is that kind of is the advocacy going on that I’m aware of. That’s kind of saying, hey, this is a really good option. Yeah, there’s many more places you know, at the site, for example, they building all of the bathrooms up all gender, even the previous bathrooms where they did have, you know, the male and female signed on by now just say all gender bathroom stalls and urinals or single stoves yeah, new buildings where we’re really encouraging just built stalls and taps like people will use the bathroom and go about their day about your bathroom at home. But all genders use my home bathroom, so it’s not much of a difference. So we do acknowledge that in some areas where cultural diversity, where there is religious and faith based, but having things like the accessible bathroom where it is a single occupancy often is an important. But if you’ve got the stall and you’ve got the tap and the bathroom toilet facility in the one spot, that’s, that’s perfect, people can do their own thing and privacy and then leave. If you’ve got the stalls and then you’ve got the taps and the outside, that’s not an issue, generally either. Or we generally asks is wash our hands. It doesn’t matter if it’s a global pandemic or not go to the bathroom wash your hands. Like now switching subjects a little bit, because I don’t want to, you know, there’s a lot to talk about, i don’t want to miss stuff. So with SHINE SA, we talked about that in the top and you work there, and that’s your employment. Another thing I wanted to mention is your work and you touched on this working with young people mental health, but you’re actually a master youth instructor, is that right for mental health first aid? Yeah, so I’ve been doing that now for about eight or nine years, where I was trained by a mental health first aid Australia to, to deliver the youth mental health first aid course and I’ve run that many courses now that I can do it in my sleep, but have attained master status. What does that mean? It essentially means that I’m considered to be someone who is proficient in the course content can work with new instructors as a mentor. I helped contribute when mental health first aid comes out and says, hey, you know, we need feedback and we need guidance on content that the master instructors of the first. So come to when they’re looking at employing within mental health, outside australia, the master instructors because of our experience so long in the sector and the amount of content that we’ve run. The like the think that value is, is really quite the quality. It essentially means that we have reached a kind of expert status in the content. Well, I’m asking the right person then, because I’m one of these, I’ve heard about mental health first aid, a fair bit now. And what exactly is involved in terms of if I have to take this course, what are some of the things i’d learned about? It’s a, it’s a two day course and it’s how to learn to recognise someone who is experiencing mental health distress. And whether that be in a moment of crisis or worsening mental health. The first sign of the segment of the content is around raising awareness of just how common mental ill health is in the community. But it’s, it’s not a mistake to believe that it impacts everybody, regardless of demographic. It doesn’t discriminate. So when we talk about, for example, things like raising awareness and educating the community. We look at things like in the first segment, we talk about men suicide rates. Women are more likely to attempt suicide, men are more likely to complete the suicide. We know that men will use a more lethal means typically, and are less likely to have reached out for support as this whole masculinity notion of you don’t talk about them. But the most recent stats actually do indicate men are talking about it. But the numbers are still increasing of the amount of men that are taking their life. But we also talk about other minority groups as well as first nations community. Again, lower life expectancy, higher risk factors, the LGBTQA+ community, young people, the elderly, particularly those who have lost their life partner or are no longer feeling as though they’ve got the same level of support and value. We know that those who are middle aged and kind of going white male. So there’s all these little areas in talking about mental health. It’s one of those things that part of the course is to destigmatize this back as you go through each topic, you go through depression, go through anxiety, we go through eating disorders, you go through substance misuse and abuse. And as you go through each of these areas of content, not only are you learning about the illness and learning about the warning signs, but you’re learning how to be a first responder. So no one is expected to leave the course as a qualified counselor will have to know despite all the right things. But you know, you have to help call emergency services. You know how to help identify when a person might be needing support and who to call. You know, the basic things of how to go ok, it looks as though things aren’t quite right at the moment. Let’s look at some practical supports, get you into a safe space. quiet area, drinkable water, a little blanket, something to help calm down. And let’s call mental health triage or triple zero. So, by the end of the course. They’ve got a manual that they can take away and read. They have got this knowledge now that they can go out and just as if they were to go into the community and see someone who’s having a seizure or may have fallen and broken up. So they can help someone who’s having a mental health crisis as well for sure. And so if someone was listening to this and was thinking, I think I should do this training, can you recommend that the best way for them to get started on that? Yes, I jumped on onto the mental health first aid Australia website and you’ll find there’s a find an instructor or  find a course tab and if you’ve got a specific instructor that you know if you can talk, then I mean, we can just talk in by state narrow down and there’s different courses as well. So I teach the youth version, there’s a first nations version for the aboriginal and torres strait islander community. There’s an adult version as a senior citizen, as multicultural versions. Find what suits what your feeling is like you need and it’ll bring up all the available courses in your area. Brilliant, that’s awesome. So with this mental health first aid course that you are now a master in, have you found that’s been helpful in your employment and, and in all the other areas that you and also the fact that your admin of the Facebook group you mentioned earlier, you must get so many comments and people reaching out is that kind of being helpful for you to? Yeah it’s, it’s been something I mean when you’re working with with people, you know, it doesn’t matter if you belong to a minority group or not. People have a bad time and sometimes that bad guy goes for a period of time that really gets in the way of someone’s day to day world and life. So having that knowledge background, i’ll often get my dad call me and he’s like, hey, you know, one of the guys at work is, I’ve mentioned this to me. Do you have few things that you could suggest? And yeah, it’s not just at work it’s you learn how to better communicate and chat with someone, you know, just, he’s having a rough day on the cash register calls. Yeah, it’s, yeah, it’s really helpful. Go your dad, talking about mental health of people, his work fantastic stuff. Speaking of mental health and taking care of yourself as well, what do you do to, to unwind or relax? I do a few things probably just sitting and chilling with my cat is one of my favorite. But yeah, I like playing video games, I like playing guitar and just chilling out. I love geocaching. It’s like this worldwide treasure hunt kind of thing. But trying to spend time with, with friends is probably something that I really do value and you know, one of my, my favorite pastimes is chilling with the the leather community. I’m a member for Adelaide leather and fetish, and it’s essentially, it’s a social group of people who like wearing leather, who identify as part of the LGBTQA+ community. And yeah, you know, when I first entered the leather community, there was this misnomer that it was just gay men and just as exclusive boys club and it’s not. Yeah, I’ve since went on and I’d like leather and fetish follows the same platform guidelines as the International Mr. Leather titles and when it comes to like the competitions and things. Yeah. So it’s a worldwide thing. Yeah. It’s huge. Yeah. Like I entered just to find, you know, local people I loved wearing my leather jacket, leather gloves, and then I discovered, you know, that there was, in addition to just a bike ride my bike to school for a while and put your clothes on and ride safely. And that for people, this was also, you know, it was a bit of a fetish for some people. It was, it was arousing and it was fun. And I wasn’t alone. And I was like, ok as a trans guy, can I go into this community? And will I be accepted for who I am? Fast forward a couple of years I ended up standing on stage at a competition to be recognized as Mr Adelaide Leather, 2019. Yeah, I won the title and I then got to travel a little bit before the pandemic hit. Nice one. Yeah, I’ve since spoken on webinars and things all around the world and it’s, it’s been incredible and I’m hoping that Yeah, when we can get most of things reopened, i’m thinking that I think it’s October or November. The International titles are hoping to be held in Chicago again this year, and one of my previous title holders he’s looking at going over and going to be competing and representing as part of the Australian cohort. But just being able to be part of that, and I’m wondering if, you know, that’s now quite a number of trans folk in particular who are current Australian bootblack, black leather is a trans man and we’ve got, you know, there was a fella in Queensland, 2015 I think was his title. Yes. Yeah. And we’ve got an international Mr. Transgender. Yeah, he took the title, that was our title holder for Australian Poppy as a trans man. As well, that’s awesome. So you know, it’s a bit of a family. Yeah. And I think not because I didn’t realise that those kind of, you know, groups which like I just had just finished and some people think ok, that’s, that is a very exclusive. How do you know a small amount of people in their own lives very exclusive and I didn’t realise that that maybe wasn’t including trans people. And so it just goes to show that, you know, you’re actually needing to break down barriers everywhere. Not just, you know, in terms of birth certificates, this is like very far reaching so yeah, that’s awesome. That. Um, that, that’s, you know, it’s not just about sex and fetishes like because part of your role as a title holder is around community work. You know, in the middle of a pandemic, I still wanted to, to do the part of my title that was raising awareness and promoting a charity. And, you know, when you sort of sit there and you’re in this group, not only are you dealing with your own sort of, you know, transgender, diverse, and you’re trying to have a public platform which, you know, I, I was hassled during my title year. There was a couple of individuals in particular because I but they could die and there was a lot of body shaming from just random people and there was people who were like, no trans people shouldn’t be in the community. This is a gay men’s thing. It’s like no, there’s women and non binary folk and transfer and you’re wrong. But you’re still able to raise a thousand dollars for the local charity, the friends that works with the LGBTQA+ community here in Adelaide and was still able to, to get out, be visible and to let people know that my body regardless of what sex or gender i’m assigned or identify with is not up for discussion and I’m here. Good on you Zac, and I think we’d fetish like, let’s be honest, it’s sport. They’re all just things that we people like it’s all about community. Yeah, I think people just need to worry less about a label and this is great, we’re chatting to you, and were realizing, people hopefully realizing that we’re just all normal people, we all like different stuff. I love coriander and some people don’t like coriander. I can’t personally understand it. They don’t like it. But the big question Josh, do you like pineapple on pizza? Man, I like almost everything. So yes, I’m happy to have pineapple on pizza. I don’t typically order it, but if it’s on there, I’m not taking it off. Debatable my friend debatable. I know raised eyebrows. define it for one, doesn’t it? It doesn’t seem like it’s like a blue dress, gold dress discussion all over again. Which one do you see? Well, you know what my kids, especially my three and a half year old, loves hawaiian pizza, with olives, and good to say she’s onto something oh, I know, and some people would be like that is basically what’s your heresy to her to do that. But yeah, I’m not sure if you’re raising a culinary genius, you know, someone who is going to be outcast from society like that. But it can go either way for sure. That’s polarizing. I know, I know. Well, well hopefully you can go to Chicago in November. Yeah, not this year, but hopefully next year. That’s next year Is it? Well yeah, I’m looking at Australian titles first, but yeah, Patrick is the fella who took the title in 2018. Yeah, he’s going to be heading over to Chicago and I wish him all the best. And yeah, he’ll be hopefully bringing a sash home, but if not it’s, it’s still going to be incredible to hear everything that he’s done and seen and to learn from his experience as well. So you mentioned that you were talking to people around the World on Zoom and so you also mentioned to me of the HIV 2020 conference, can you tell us what was it like being part of that? You know that people from all over the world kind of coming together. Yeah. I mean, when we talk about things like like HIV and aids like that is still so heavily stigmatized and still so much misinformation and as as a trans man, there’s very limited information and resources and medications like a pep and prep, post exposure prophylaxis and pre exposure they’re still working out how they affect different people and being able to not only have sexual health educator, but as a trans man and as someone who is engaged so closely in the community has had a HIV scare. Being able to, to have those communications and those conversations on, on a global platform was, was incredible, you know, guess sitting on a panel with people who are HIV positive and sharing their story. And you’re sending with those who are experts in the field and working with those who are positive and living with HIV. And yet it’s incredibly empowering and it’s one of those, as you described earlier, it’s a good response moment. That’s great. Does that mean we are running out of time? So I want to end on this one last question for you and I want to find out who or what inspires you? I think it’s just those little acts of kindness. I’m one of those people who will walk through the shopping center when I see my neighbors and things like that, you just kind of smile. You know, something that my dad instilled into me pretty young as you know, the world needs more love, it is his basically his catch phrase. It’s one of those things, it’s like just smile at someone. You don’t know what an individual is going through. You don’t know what that day has been like and what the qualities are at the moment. A gentle smile can really change the way someone feels and it’s small but powerful. That’s those little things, those little random acts that that inspires. Yeah. Everybody needs more love that it pretty much. Yeah. It’s good. It’s, it’s simple. It’s a little bit cheesy and corny, but that’s a better way than good because you remember it and it’s, yeah, it’s a beautiful thing. Zac, if people want to connect with, you know, how they do that and, you know, for example, you mentioned some of those Facebook groups and things people might have been interested in that and wanting to be part of it. So can you let them know how to, to get in touch? So I admin, alongside a few other amazing folks, the trans masc Australia page, I’ve got the trans masc South Australia Facebook page as well as the closed group. And you’ll find my Mr. Adelaide Leather 2019 on both Facebook and Instagram. And professionally you can connect with me by Linkedin or you can reach out to me via SHINE SA as well. Lovely. Well, thanks for your time, Zac. as I said at the top, what a public holiday probably came at a good time because I want to be able to, to get you otherwise sound like a very, very busy person, but for all the right reasons. So thank you once again! Thanks for having me. It’s been a great, great chat this morning and I’ve really appreciated the time to get to know you as well. Thanks Zac. I hope you enjoyed that interview. If you liked it or any of our other episodes, it would be great if you can rate and review the inspirational Australian’s podcast. It really helps us out if someone, you know, it’s a little dose of inspiration. Why not let them know about this podcast? And if you haven’t already, make sure you subscribed, so that you won’t miss an episode. Join us each week as we talk with ordinary Australians, achieving extraordinary things. You can always head to our website at awards australia.com/podcast for more information and details on each guest. Now before we go, i’d like to thank Annette, our producer. Here’s a fun fact. Annette is my mum and our other host, Geoff, is my dad. This podcast is brought to you by Awards Australia, a family owned business that proudly uncovers the stories of people who make a difference for others. We can only do this with the support of our corporate and not for profit partners as they make our awards programs possible. So do you know someone making a difference? If you’d like to recommend someone to be guest on the podcast, get in touch through your instagram page, inspirational.Australians, or maybe your business might like to sponsor the podcast or get involved with the awards we run, head to our website awards australia.com for more details. Until next week, stay safe and remember, together we make a difference. Thanks for joining us today from inspirational Australian’s podcast. We hope you enjoyed listening and have been inspired by ordinary australians achieving extraordinary things. So it’s goodbye for another week. Remember,