Dwyane Wade on supporting his transgender child: ‘that was our job to get information’


ESPN films has a documentary about basketball star Dwyane Wade called D. Wade: Life Unexpected. It debuts on February 23 and chronicles his career but also his life as a husband and father. Dwyane is father to four children: his sons Zaire, 18, and Xavier, six, and his two daughters, Kaavia, one, and Zaya, 12. Dwyane appeared on Ellen DeGeneres’ talk show to discuss the documentary. While there, Ellen congratulated him on being such a supportive father to Zaya, née Zion, who informed her family that in order to live her truth, she will go forward using the pronouns she and her. Dwyane’s reaction to the news was to let Zaya know that not only would he support her, he would follow her brave lead in the journey.

There are so many parents that are just, “Oh, you’re not going the way I imagined or wanted you to be,” and freak out and you are so loving and supportive of Zaya. And what a special child she is.

Yes, she is. Thank you for that. First of all, me and my wife Gabrielle Union, we are proud parents of a child in the LGBTQ plus community and we are proud allies as well. We take our roles and responsibilities as parents very seriously. So when a child comes home with a question, a child comes home with an issue, a child comes home with anything, it’s our job as parents to listen to that, to give them the best information we can, to give the best feedback. And that doesn’t change because sexuality is now involved in it. Once Zaya, our 12-year-old, came home, first, Zion. I don’t know if everyone knows, originally named Zion. Zion, born as a boy, came home and said, “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 referenced as she and her. I’d love for you guys to call me Zaya.” So, internally, that was our job to go out and get information, to reach out to every relationship we have. My wife reached out to everybody on the cast of Pose. We just tried to figure out as much information as we to make sure we give our child the best opportunity to be her best self.

Once Zion came home and said, “Call me Zaya” and was ready to take on this, I looked at her and said, “You are a leader. It’s our opportunity to allow you to be a voice.” Right now it’s through us, because she’s 12 years old, but eventually it will be through her.

[From ellentube via Towelrod]

Ellen mentioned that Dwyane and Gabrielle also work with the non-profit GLSEN, an organization that supports LGBTQ families by making the school/education environment safe and prosperous for LGBTQ children. I very much appreciate Dwyane, Gabrielle, Zaya and the whole Wade family sharing Zaya’s journey so openly because I promise you, families in similar situations are benefitting from the discussion. I liked Dwyane’s comments about how they reached out to as many people as they could to give Zaya, “the best opportunity to be her best self.” I’ve never struggled with my daughter’s sexuality, but I did struggle with whether I should tell people who didn’t seem to know. I feared it would make it look like I had an issue with her being queer if I brought it up. But Dwyane reminded me not to prioritize how I come across over how I support my daughter.

Much like Marlon Wayans’ approach to his daughter, I love that they both gave their daughters the opportunity to take the lead. I also love that famous voices are reinforcing the message that a child’s sexuality or gender identity doesn’t change them because it’s always been who they were and that, as a parent, our jobs are the same. Fortunately, there are a lot of organizations like GLSEN out there to support us as we journey with our kids. And with more famous folks raising awareness, it makes our jobs easier.

Also, Dwyane gave a nice to tribute Kobe Bryant following his death. You can listen to it here, if you haven’t already.


Photo credit: WENN Photo, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube

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31 Responses to “Dwyane Wade on supporting his transgender child: ‘that was our job to get information’”

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  1. Becks1 says:

    I love how completely supportive they are of her. And while she’s a child so I could understand if they did NOT discuss her publicly, I think its important that they are doing so.

  2. Lillian says:

    Beautiful examples. Thank you. Teared me up over coffee.

  3. Carol says:

    There is nothing better than great parents.

  4. HK9 says:

    I love that they’re doing this. I also know as a black woman, there are many from the black community who still have ignorant things to say about it even though it’s 2020. It makes me wonder, how much different the world would be, if we just accepted each other…..

    • BlueSky says:

      Unfortunately there is still a lot of homophobia in the black community. I’m a black woman as well and I see a lot of people who hide behind religion to justify it. I was at a hair salon a year a ago and this black lady just causally dropped the F word while discussing someone to the hairdresser. It was just sickening.

  5. Snowslow says:

    It’s such a relief when kids ‘come out’ as whatever they are. My son, 13, just came out as gay and queer and wears make-up to medical appointments or to get take-out with us. I beam with pride not of his aesthetic (which I love) but of him being himself. It turns out that my oldest son, 19, I find a bit more entangled with the pressures of fashion and further from knowing himself weirdly. Oh I love my kids!
    My trans favorite author, by the way, is Paul Preciado, who wrote An Apartment in Uranus. I just started it and it just made me cry with joy (and sometimes pain and fear to be honest but I try to stay positive). So beautiful how life is defined as an in-betweenness. My daughter’s best friend is a trans man who is also so radiant now that he came out!
    Just had to share these emotions.

    • Acires says:

      I love this, thanks for sharing. I am a therapist at a high school and not every kid gets this parent support and I love it when they do.

      • Snowslow says:

        Our trans friend’s mum just apologised to him (it took about a year). I know it’s not much (his parents are progressive, artistic, on the left) but I hope it’s a glimmer of hope. I really want to try to stay positive because otherwise I’d be in my bed terrified. We can’t go about afraid (but not naive either).

    • Jillian says:

      Thank you for being this parent, your children (and, it sounds like, your children’s friends) are so incredibly fortunate to have you

  6. TIFFANY says:

    Dwayne has five children. The adoption of his nephew was finalized in 2011.

    I like him. Sure, there was a time his personal life was messy but he has always been to be a solid person and in his interviews what you see is what you get with him and he has always been consistent with that.

  7. Aang says:

    As the parent of a trans kid I can’t tell you how important this is. Visibility and acceptance is key to making the world safe for trans children. I worry about my child’s safety every time he leaves the house. He’s not really even a child any more. A 21 year old trans man working on a law degree and a simultaneous MSW with the goal of advocating for LGBTQ+ Refugees and asylum seekers. Im so proud of the man he is becoming but he is still my baby and the world is a scary place for our trans kids. People like Charlize Theron and Dwayne Wade are helping to make it a little safer.

  8. Allergy says:

    Ah, love love love them.

  9. Scollins says:

    Parenting at its finest. Feeling the love from here ❤️

  10. TQ says:

    I am so impressed and touched by Dwayne’s open and loving response. He and Gabby are doing an incredible job supporting Zaya living her truth in such a public way. What an inspiration for other families!!

    Admittedly, when he was younger his cockiness (plus the whole ex wife drama when he and Gabby got together) didn’t come across very well. But in recent years I’ve appreciated his more thoughtful, mature and family focused vibe. Looking forward to watching the documentary!

  11. WTF says:

    Gotta love this!

  12. T says:

    I love this story. Also, I think you mean that a child’s gender identity* doesn’t change them or our job as parents, not “sexuality”. (Though the same should be said about sexuality, I just mean in context of this story.)

    • Caitlin says:

      Yep – came here to say the same.

    • Onomo says:

      This, said with loving kindness to Hecate. I understand it can be easy to trip over words when writing about something we aren’t familiar with it and hopefully none of this comes across as condescending.

    • Snowslow says:

      I understood it as it being that Hecate’s child is gay (so sexual orientation) not trans (gender identity). But I may be wrong.

      • T says:

        But I think when Hecate addresses Dwayne and Marlon Waynes’ approach to their childrens’ identities in the last paragraph, that IS a reference to gender identity, not sexuality.

        I also don’t want to be condescending. It’s important that we continue to work on using the appropriate terms and model how to use those terms. That’s the only way to grow!

    • Celebitchy says:

      I think Hecate was mirroring the way that DW explained it, and also as Snowslow mentioned Hecate had opened up about her own daughter being queer and was referring to that. I added “or gender identity” to that sentence to clarify.

      • StormsMama says:

        Such a beautiful thread of comments on a beautiful piece about parenting among many topics. This really helps my heart knowing there are parents loving their babies. And kids growing into themselves, honestly and truly with out self hatred.
        Zaya talking about looking in the mirror and being yourself and knowing yourself is SO mature and insightful and inspiring!! Plenty of grownups myself included struggle with that kind of self awareness and self love.

  13. Some chick says:

    So much love for this, and for their family!

    I just recently got MAGA’d by some Old White Dudes so this feels extra warm to see right now.

    Y’all think “white feminists” are bad but that is some divide and conquer shite. It’s the Old White Dudes who are really ruining everything.



  14. StormsMama says:

    Loved also what he said about Kobe. What a lovely thoughtful man father and friend Dwayne seems like.

  15. Catting says:

    Made me tear up. Beautiful.

  16. Charfromdarock says:


  17. ME says:

    She is lucky to have such supportive parents. Good for them and good for her !

  18. Tpoe says:

    Don’t get me wrong here. I am not transphobic or homophobic and I think everyone should be allowed to do what makes them happy but I wonder if 12 is old enough to make a decision about your gender identity. I mean the kid hasn’t hit puberty yet. We wouldn’t trust her to drive a car, or buy a drink, or vote because she’s not mentally and emotionally mature enough to make those decisions for herself but she is old enough to pick her gender? I’m not saying it’s wrong, not saying the Wades are wrong to support my kid. But if my 12 year old boy told me he decided that he was going to identify as a female I think I would try to be supportive while at the same time telling him that he is genuinely not old enough to understand what that means. Sure he is mature for his age but he’s not even old enough to be left alone at home for an extended period of time, let alone literally choose his gender identity for the rest of his life. Just my, admittedly not very well informed, opinion on the matter.

    • Tpoe says:

      And just for the record I love me some Dwayne Wade. The man is a goddamn hero. And there is nothing wrong with transgender people at all in my book. All I a saying is that a 12 year old, in my opinion, is a child who does not even really understand their own body (you wouldn’t let them consent to sex because they don’t understand the ramifications, because they are just children) and in my opinion a child lacks the emotional and psychological maturity to make such an important decision as picking their gender identity. If Zaya was 16 or 17 we wouldn’t be having this conversation. Besides where is the cut off? Can a seven year old choose their gender identity? Of course not. The reason we don’t let children vote is because they are too susceptible to manipulation because of their lack of emotional maturity. I’m not saying that is the case with Zaya. I am simply wondering aloud if this is actually what is best and if there isn’t a better way. Isn’t that how discussions start? Isn’t that how societies progress?

    • Taryn says:

      I think the most important thing is that children feel listened to and respected. If my child told me they wanted to dress in clothes marketed for girls and wear makeup and be referred to as she, I would happily do so while also having healthy conversations about their gender identity and their future to make sure they knew I supported them no matter what. Who cares if when they get older they change? They still felt happy and loved regardless. It’s not my place to tell them what I think they should be thinking at that age.

      By 12 years old I already knew I like boys AND girls, I just knew it was not safe for me to share that with others and it really affected my self esteem to this day because I was constantly told “you are not mature enough to know that yet.” I absolutely was and it prevented me from being honest with myself and others, forming healthy relationships, seeking help and therapy, etc.. I think it can be easy to interject our way of thinking to kids because we think we know better than them. But the truth is, unless you personally struggled with gender identity and those feelings we don’t have a right to tell children they are not mature enough to understand things just because we don’t fully understand them.