Tane's transitioning from girl to man was like being reborn
GROWING up in the average Australian family and living a regular childhood along with three siblings and two loving parents seems ideal for anyone.
However, this seemingly perfect life only caused Tane Oxenham to become more confused when he found himself unhappy and beginning to struggle with his identity from as young as four years old.
He speeds into the courtyard on an old-fashioned, turquoise bike and screeches it to a halt right in front of a table and chairs, bouncing into his seat with confidence and a smile.
He wears a cap on his head and is dressed in a skate shirt and cut-off jeans. While he skols coffee from a cup, he begins to recall the first time he realised he identified as transgender.
"There were so many signs ever since I was a child. I would always ask to be dressed in masculine clothing and I was envious of male activities. But I think the first time I unconsciously realised I was trans was at my parents' wedding when I was four and I got so upset and anxious because I had to wear a dress," he said.
"And then there were small things like not getting the toys I wanted to play with at Christmas and then eventually developing insecurities at puberty when my body started changing when I didn't feel like it should be."
Tane, who now at the age of 25 identifies as male and has done so for the past two years, lives a self-proclaimed peaceful, evolved and amazing life since his transition.
He talks about how he feels reborn, more open and accepting and has a new-found perspective on everything.
"People see me more for who I am now, and I see myself more and more," he said.
"It's like walking out of a dark tunnel."
He stops talking abruptly and begins beaming with happiness as he notices a family of baby ducks waddling past the table.
He is overjoyed and gets up to have a closer look at them as he professes his love and adoration of animals and nature, before elaborating on his transitioning experience.
"I feel like a new person every day, and it's beautiful to be able to wake up and look in the mirror and see the reflection of what I always felt and saw on the inside," he says through a smile. I feel like non-transgender people will never truly understand that feeling."
One of the biggest milestones, he explains, was having chest surgery, which is when he began to feel most comfortable in himself, particularly at the beach, which is a place he is obsessed with.
"It's one of the biggest barriers for trans men: we miss out on swimming at the beach or in front of people because of our body dysphoria," he explained.
"So, yeah, that was big for me."
These feelings of dysphoria and confusion surrounding gender often result in mental illness within the LGBTQIA community, with transgender people specifically almost 11 times more likely to attempt suicide after the age of 18, according to the LGBTI Health Alliance online statistics.
Tane's tone of voice becomes serious as he opens up about his own struggles with mental illness and says that suicidal thoughts wavered in and out for him all throughout his teen years, before he ultimately attempted suicide some time before his transition.
He believes that while most of these thoughts and health issues stem from dysphoria, they also stem from feeling alone, being unaccepted and not being understood.
"For me, having a great support system around me with plenty of people who understood, and even plenty who didn't understand but still just wanted to see me happy and alive was the most important thing ever," he said passionately.
When asked about advice he would give to anybody struggling with their gender and yet to transition, he hesitates and thinks deeply before speaking.
"First of all, make sure you're in a safe environment. Don't put yourself in danger," he said.
"In this day and age, there's so much research on the internet and through social media, I just encourage them to dig deeper into that, and into themselves, and I'm also willing to talk to anybody who is struggling and help them through it because I've been through it all."
Before jumping back on his bike and leaving, Tane shares his favourite quote from his idol, American comedian Jim Carey as he smiles: "You can fail at what you don't want. So you might as well take a chance at what you love."
If you're struggling, call Lifeline on 13 11 14 or beyondblue on 1300 22 4636.