Three years after introducing herself to the world as trans, Zaya Wade had her legal name and gender change approved by a judge. Shortly afterwards, her parents—NBA star Dwyane Wade and actress Gabrielle Union—celebrated their daughter in a powerful speech at the NAACP Image Awards, calling on viewers to stand up for the trans community.
Zaya Wade has been in the public eye from an early age, and years before she came out, a photo circulating from her tenth birthday party sparked online speculation about her gender identity, much of it transphobic. Now 15 years old, Wade has blossomed into an out-and-proud trans teen despite the public scrutiny.
Through all of this, her parents have remained her most outspoken supporters. This past weekend, the couple demonstrated what it means to support a trans child to BET’s live TV audience during the NAACP Image Awards.
— BET (@BET) February 26, 2023
The couple were accepting the President’s Award, which recognizes achievements in public service. Dwyane Wade spoke first, acknowledging the importance of using his influence to help others. “I’m intentional when I use my platform,” he said. “I recognize what I’ve been given, and it’s my job to uplift the voices of others and share my access and resources.”
He went on to celebrate his daughter Zaya for everything she has taught him about fatherhood. “As your father, my job isn’t to create a version of myself or direct your future. My role is to be a facilitator to your hopes, your wishes, your dreams,” he said to applause. “Zaya, you’ve made me a better human, just simply by being who you were born to be, our baby girl, Zaya Wade.”
Gabrielle Union then took the stage to share “hard truths” of the threats facing the Black trans community. After acknowledging all that the NAACP has done for civil rights in the organization’s century-long history, she looked to the current moment, asking the audience, “Will we fight for some, or will we fight for all of our people?”
“The intersection of Black rights and the rights of the LGBTQIA, trans and gender non-conforming people continues to be rough—that’s a huge understatement,” she continued. “Even as we demand equality at the top of our lungs, we consistently fail to extend our advocacy to protect some of our most vulnerable among us.
“Black trans people are being targeted, terrorized and hunted in this country. Every day, everywhere. And there’s rarely a whisper about it.”
Impassioned and indignant as her speech was, Union pointed out that her advocacy is a natural extension of what it means to be a parent. “We honestly don’t approach this work as activists or leaders, as much as we do this as parents,” Union concluded. “Parents who love our children and will do whatever the hell we can to keep them seen and secure and safe.”
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