Crossing the Divide: A parent’s guide to understanding our transgender children

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Supplied: Cape Town's Westerford High School has given its students the option of wearing pronoun badges as part of their uniform.
Supplied: Cape Town's Westerford High School has given its students the option of wearing pronoun badges as part of their uniform.

As much as I love to see my children grow, develop, thrive and excel in the world, as a mother, all I really want for my kids is for them to be as normal as possible. 

What is normal, though? When presented as a noun, normal means "the usual, typical, or expected state or condition'. But who defines the usual, the typical or the expected? This will be different for every family, community and society.

Perhaps then, what I mean is that I want my kids to have a simple life, free of challenges and obstacles. 

Is this what is best for them? As their mother, I want to say yes, but as a fellow human who knows they will also be self-reliant adults one day, I know that overcoming hurdles and finding their own strength is critical to their development. 

My kids are still little, and we have a long journey ahead together, but I can take cues from those who have older children, those who are further along the road than I am, and I can prepare myself for potential forks, loops and bumps in the road.

Both in my role as a parent and as editor of News24's parenting vertical, I get to see so many of the issues that parents are facing, from teething to tantrums to transgender kids.

In my experience, questions and concerns about children expressing a different gender to the one they were assigned at birth are coming up more and more frequently.

Parents are learning terms such as "non-binary", "gender dysphoria" and "transgender" and trying to understand why their child is getting serious about pronouns. They're discovering that schools are moving towards gender-neutral uniforms and shared bathrooms. 

Parents - and teachers - are confused, maybe concerned, but not necessarily against any of it. They just don't have enough information. They're not sure how to support their children and they're wondering if what they are experiencing is a normal and expected teenage phase, or something more serious.

They're reaching out to me, asking for information, for links, for resources... for anything that will give them some insight into what their child is experiencing. 

And one of the most common questions that comes up is: Is this normal? 

It is obvious to me that parents need more guidance in this area. We've covered stories of transgender children before, but it feels different now.

There is more to this than the pros and cons of puberty blockers and whether schools should have shared bathrooms. Although those conversations must be had - this is about our children's physical and mental health, about how they fit into the world, and about how we as their parents can help them to find their true selves, to be as settled and as content in themselves as they can be as they grow into the people they are meant to be. 

With this in mind, I invited journalist and mom of two, Samantha Herbst, to write a series of articles specifically aimed at those confused, concerned parents who want to help their children through whatever it is they're going through, whether it be a phase or a complete transformation.

Sam spent months researching and interviewing and learning all she could, speaking to parents, teachers, doctors and psychologists, she interviewed people who have transitioned and parents who are supporting their children through this now. We've spoken to doctors and psychologists, and we've put it all together in one place for you to find. 

We also plan to keep updating these resources and information as we learn more and have more to share with you.  

We hope this resource is helpful, but you are welcome to mail me at with your questions and concerns, and we'll work to find answers and support for you. 

Find our transgender support resources here: Crossing the Divide

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