Proud Parent

Dwyane Wade Demonstrates Again How Parents Should Show Up for Their Trans Kids

Former basketball star Dwyane Wade is famous for his prowess on the court, but he’s quickly becoming known for his parenting skills too. 

On Tuesday, Wade stopped by Creative Artists Agency’s (CAA) Amplify Summit to talk about his role as a parent to 16-year-old daughter Zaya Wade. In conversation with fellow basketball player Chris Paul and CAA’s co-head of Basketball Lisa Metelus, Wade recalled the journey he went on to support Zaya when she opened up to him and his wife, actress Gabrielle Union, about being transgender. When the family was living in Chicago in 2016, Zaya completed an assignment with her openly gay teacher where she was tasked to describe herself, an assignment the teacher flagged with Wade and Union. Wade admitted that, for him and Union, the conversation around Zaya being a part of the LGBTQ+ community started when she was three years old, but credits the teacher for giving her the confidence to tell the world about herself.

However, when it came time for Union and Wade to have the discussion about Zaya’s identity with her, he noted that his daughter was visibly afraid to have the conversation with him. 

“I came home and I just remember my daughter — my child — being scared to talk to me, like hiding in my wife’s arm in the chair,” said Wade. “I think I’m just the dad that’s like, ‘Hey, come and tell me anything. I’m a cool dad.’”

But Wade soon realized that he may have had a few hang ups that prevented Zaya from coming out to him, forcing him to assess what he might’ve done that made his daughter apprehensive about coming out to him. 

“And so I had to check myself… because maybe I ain’t what I think I am. I haven’t done what I think,” said Wade. “I had to go look at myself in the mirror and ask myself: ‘Why was my child scared? Scared to tell me something about herself?’”

Wade attributes his projections onto his children, of which he has four, as well as the way he expressed his masculinity as the catalysts for reconsidering how to best support Zaya. 

“In a lot of work as parents — and as people — what we do is we put our fears and everything on our kids. And I guess I was doing that,” said Wade. “So I had to go look at myself in the mirror and ask myself… What is it about my masculinity that has my child afraid?”

In 2020, Zaya came out as trans to her parents when she was 12-years-old. Since then, Wade and Union have taken the time to educate themselves and others on the experiences of trans people. They’ve also been staunchly supportive of her, even going as far as stopping Zaya’s biological mother, Siohvaughn Funches, from preventing Zaya from legally changing her name and gender. 

The power couple have been using their platform to advocate for her and other trans folks. During this year’s NAACP Image Awards, Wade and Union were honored with the President’s Award and used their speech to advocate for the Black trans community.

“I became all kinds of things because I support my child and being who she is,” said Wade. “I think the hardest part about it is shutting out the world and shutting out the people that really are not in [our] circle, But they have opinions and we are a public-facing family.” 

In front of the camera or behind closed doors, the Wade-Union household is fully behind Zaya and parents of trans kids should take note. 

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