Dwyane Wade is sharing the beautiful story of how his 12-year-old daughter came out as transgender. On a recent episode of The Ellen DeGeneres Show, Dwyane shared more about how Zaya came to live as her authentic self. It’s one of many subjects that ESPN’s documentary on Dwyane, D. Wade: Life Unexpected, covers.
The conversation began with Ellen applauding Dwyane and wife Gabrielle Union for their inspiring show of support for Zaya’s journey.
“First of all, I think it’s what every parent should be is what you’re being right now,” she said. “Which is unconditionally loving your child and supporting your child in whoever they are.”
“Me and my wife Gabrielle Union are proud parents of a child in the LGBTQ+ community. And we are proud allies as well,” Dwyane explained. “We take our roles and our responsibility as parents very seriously.”
“So when our child comes home with a question, when a child comes home with an issue, when a child comes home with anything, it’s our job as parents to listen to that, to give them the best information that we can, to give them the best feedback that we can — and that doesn’t change because sexuality is now involved in it.”
“So once Zaya, our 12-year-old, came home — first Zion, I don’t know if everyone knows, originally named Zion, born as a boy — came home and said, ‘Hey, I want to talk to you guys. I think going forward, I’m ready to live my truth. I want to be referenced as she and her, I would love for you guys to call me Zaya,'” he recalled.
“So internally, it’s now our job to go out and get information, to reach out to every relationship that we have — my wife reached out to everybody on the cast of Pose — we’re just trying to figure out as much information as we can to make sure that we give our child the best opportunity to be her best self.”
Dwyane also discussed how he let Zaya know she has an opportunity to lead. “Once Zaya came home and said, ‘I want you to call me Zaya and I’m ready to take on this,’ I looked at her and said, ‘You are a leader. You are a leader and this is our opportunity to allow you to be a voice,'” he said. “Right now it’s through us because she’s 12 years old, but eventually it’ll be through her.”
Since the interview aired, Gabrielle tweeted thanks to everyone who served as a resource as they learned more about the LGBTQ+ community.
“Huge huge huge THANK YOU to everyone whose DMs I slid into, friends, & family who provided information, resources, love & encouragement,” she wrote. “We are humble LGBTQ+ allies with ALOT to learn & grateful for all the support. We encourage yall to check us as needed … Again, thank you!”
Gabrielle also shared a video of Zaya and her father discussing advice for others who are on their journey to living authentically. “Even in hard times, you’ve got to push through. It’s worth it,” the 12-year-old wisely advises.
Some of Dwyane’s earliest comments about Zaya’s journey came in April 2019. The Union-Wade family attended the Miami Pride Parade in support of Zaya, leading to many questions regarding her gender and sexual identities. Dwyane tweeted his support for his daughter, as he was on the road with the Miami Heat at the time.
Later, he discussed the importance of expressing his support. “I don’t really talk about it much because it’s Zion’s story to tell,” he told Variety during an interview at Cannes Lions, an annual advertising conference in the south of France.
“I think as a family, we should support each other. That’s our job. And my job as a father is to facilitate their lives and to support them and be behind them in whatever they want to do.”
He also admitted he was surprised so many people had a negative reaction to him loving and supporting his son publicly. “This is my job as a father,” he said.
“I’m very uneasy about accolades that come from supporting my kids or the negativity that comes from it. I’m doing what every parent has to do.”
“Once you bring kids into this world, you become unselfish,” he continued. “It’s my job to be their role model, to be their voice in my kids’ lives, to let them know you can conquer the world. So, go and be your amazing self and we’re going to sit back and just love you.”
On Thanksgiving, Gabrielle posted a photo of the family. Comments regarding Zaya’s appearance began bombarding the photo. Dwyane took to Twitter to shut that down in a series of tweets. First, he retweeted someone commending them embracing Zaya’s individuality.
“As a parent, my only goal is that my kids feel that I see them, love them, and support them,” he commented.
“I’ve seen some post-thanksgiving hate on social about my family photo,” he later tweeted in regard to the negativity. “Stupidity is apart of this world we live in—so I get it. But here’s the thing—I’ve been chosen to lead my family not y’all. So we will continue to be us and support each other with pride, love & a smile!”
Dwyane and Gabrielle are an incredible example of the love and support that all LGBTQ+ children should receive from their families. They understand that their roles as parents and as allies are that much more important to speak about with their considerable platform. We’re excited to see Zaya continue to enjoy life and flourish in her truth.