Not every child gets the opportunity to be met with love and support when coming out to family or even friends, which causes them to hide who they truly are from others. Fortunately, that was not the case for Zaya Wade — daughter of retired NBA star Dwyane Wade and stepdaughter to actress Gabriele Union — who came out to her parents as transgender at the age of 12.
Zaya, unlike so many other LGBTQ children, was met by the love and support of her family after she shared her news with them. Wade described the experience recently on the Ellen Degeneres Show. Zaya told her parents, "Hey, so I want to talk to you guys. I think going forward I'm ready to live my truth and I want to be referred to as she and her. I would love for you guys to call me Zaya."
Remembering what he first said to his daughter after she came out, he said, "I looked at her and said 'You are a leader. You are a leader and it is our opportunity to allow you to be a voice.'" Wade also showed support for his daughter when speaking on the 'All The Smoke' podcast. When speaking about his child's strength, Wade said, "You want to talk about strength and courage? My 12-year-old has way more than I have. You can learn something from your kids."
Last Spring, Zaya — still then known as Zion — marched at the Miami Beach Pride Parade with Union and her older brother, Zaire. Unfortunately, Wade couldn't be there due to playing with the Miami Heat but he showed his child nothing but support on social media. "We take our roles and responsibilities as parents very seriously, so when our child comes home with a question, when our child comes home with an issue, when our child comes home with anything, it's our job to listen to that, to give them the best information or feedback that we can, and that doesn't change because sexuality is now involved in it," Wade said during his appearance on Ellen.
To show the continued support, Union posted a video of Zaya on Twitter that said, "Meet Zaya, she's compassionate, loving, whip smart, and we are so proud of her." In the video, we hear Zaya sitting beside her father and speaking about being true to oneself.
Zaya has also helped prompt Wade and Union to begin speaking out more aggressively in support of LGBTQ inclusively. Wade and Union contributed $50,000 to the LGBTQ youth group GLSEN and raised additional funds by selling $35 dollar Pride T-shirts through their social media platforms. They also have zero tolerance for online bullies and trolls. After people criticized the couple for uploading a thanksgiving photo posted by Union on Instagram featuring Zaya sporting a a crop top and long painted fingernails, Wade wrote, "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, and a smile!"
The couple has gained the admiration of many for the positive example they are setting for other parents on how to be the best allies possible to their LGBTQ children. Angelica Ross, a trans advocate, tech entrepreneur, and actor on the FX drama "Pose," was overcome with joy and emotion on her twitter page as she replied to a clip of Wade's interview with a GIF of a woman dabbing tears from her eyes. Former Presidential hopeful Julián Castro wrote on twitter, "His unconditional love and support for Zion will give other parents the courage to love and respect their children for who they truly are."
For many parents, it takes time to get used to their child coming out as trans or any other part of the LGBTQ+ community. And there is nothing wrong with the need to process feelings and uncertainties about a family member's coming out process. But, at least according to Wade, it's still your job to educate yourself — particularly if you are a parent. "Go out and get information," he said to other parents who may be grappling with coming to terms with a child's sexual orientation or gender identity. "Reach out to every relationship that we have."