Gabrielle Union and Dwyane Wade’s powerful history of fighting for their trans daughter Zaya
Dwyane Wade and Gabrielle Union are proud, loving parents to a trans daughter, Zaya Wade – and they’re not afraid to stand up for her rights at every turn.
Whether it happens early or later in life, knowing how to emotionally process a child coming out as trans isn’t necessarily something parents innately know how to do. It’s important for trans kids to know their parents love them unconditionally, which is something Dwyane Wade and Gabrielle Union have shown time and time again.
The couple are father and step-mother to 15-year-old Zaya Wade. Their celebrity means the teenager’s journey as a young trans woman has played out in the public eye, but at every step they’ve championed her and educated the world on trans rights.
In a highly-praised speech at the 2023 NAACP Image Awards, Wade described how his job as Zaya’s father is to be a “facilitator of your hopes, your wishes, your dreams”.
He said he’s become a “better human”, just by Zaya having the “courage” to be who she was “born to be”.
Union emphasised that the intersection of rights for Black and LGBTQ+ people “continues to be rough”, highlighting how Black trans people are “being targeted, terrorised and hunted”. She urged the Black community to “fight for all our people”.
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Many were moved to see Wade and Union, who have immense cultural sway and huge platforms, speak so directly on trans rights, especially at a time when those rights are under attack from Republican lawmakers and the right-wing press.
The couple were praised as the parents every trans kid deserves, with the NAACP giving them the President’s Award for their LGBTQ+ allyship.
Wade and Union have been deliberately forthcoming about the journey they’ve taken with Zaya, sharing their story to help other families with trans children.
In 2019, shortly before Zaya came out to the world, Wade spoke about he grew up “ignorant” to LGBTQ+ identities.
“I had to look myself in the mirror and say, ‘What if your son comes home and tells you he’s gay? What are you going to do? How are you going to be? How are you going to act? It ain’t about him. He knows who he is. It’s about you. Who are you?'” he said.
Wade has put in the work, educating himself on LGBTQ+ issues, especially trans rights.
In February 2020 he appeared on The Ellen DeGeneres Show and announced that Zaya had come out as trans. He said she hoped to give her the “best opportunity to be her best self”.
He said that he and Union are “proud parents of a child in the LGBTQ+ community” and “proud allies as well”.
He added: “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 we can. That doesn’t change because sexuality is now involved in it.”
Union has also spoken openly about her love for Zaya, and how being her stepmother has changed her.
In 2020, Union proudly introduced the world to her “compassionate, loving” and “whip smart” child after Zaya came out as trans.
“It’s OK to listen to, love and respect your children exactly as they are,” Union tweeted. “Love and light good people.”
In an interview with People in 2022, she described how time, acceptance, trust and consistency allowed their “bond to grow organically and naturally”.
She went on: “Zaya coming into [her] truest self did help because I am able to bond with who she actually is versus the representative that was speaking for her for years. Now she is completely herself and so I know her, not her representative.”
Zaya agreed that “discovering who [she was] definitely deepened [their] bond and also other people’s bonds”.
The teen added: “I can be truthful and honest with myself and therefore, truthful and honest with other people. That helps better everyone’s connections and relationships with each other.
“Our relationship has grown so much from the first day I met her to now. It is because time has allowed us to grow together and progressively.”
The family has faced challenges, including from Zaya’s mother who tried to stop her from being able to change her legal name and gender marker. Wayne advocated for Zaya’s right to “live more comfortably and honestly in all aspects of her life”, with a court agreeing to let her do so.
The couple has also advocated for the wider trans community, who face extraordinary levels of physical violence and confront anti-trans hate on the streets, at work, in school or at the hands of the government in America.
Wade and Union have openly criticised lawmakers who’ve worked to rollback trans rights in the US. Memorably, Union called out Disney for “funding hate and oppression” over the company’s initial inaction over Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” bill.
At the time, Union vowed that she would “not stop fighting” for trans youth as long as she had “air in [her] lungs”.
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