Gabrielle Union Says She and Dwyane Wade Are "Proud" of Daughter Zaya

"It’s OK to listen to, love & respect your children exactly as they are."

Street Style - Paris Fashion Week - Haute Couture Spring/Summer 2020 : Day One
(Image credit: Jason LaVeris)

During a recent appearance on The Ellen DeGeneres Show, NBA superstar Dwyane Wade recalled the pivotal moment his 12-year-old child, Zaya, opened up to him and wife Gabrielle Union about her gender identity. Wade used Zaya's deadname, Zion, while speaking to DeGeneres and explaining that she now uses the pronouns she/her.

"Zion, born as a boy, came home and said, ‘Hey, so I want to talk to you guys. I think going forward I am ready to live my truth. I want to be referenced as ‘she' and ‘her.' I would love for you guys to call me Zaya,'" Wade said.

Wade began to use "she/her" pronouns for Zaya publicly in December 2019. On an episode of the sports podcast All the Smoke, Wade spoke about the beauty of watching Zaya's coming-of-age unfold in real time.

“I’ve watched my son, from day one, become into who she now eventually has come into,” he said. “Nothing changes with my love, nothing changes with my responsibilities.”

In a new video shared by Union, Zaya talks about the importance of being yourself, offering words of wisdom for anyone having a similar experience.

"Be true to yourself. What's the point of being on this earth is you're gonna try to be someone you're not?" she said. "I know it can get tough, but I think you push through and you be the best's worth it when you reach that point."

The former Miami Heat player and Union take their responsibilities as parents very seriously. Union and Wade have a daughter, Kaavia James, 1, together, but raise Wade's three other children and his nephew as well. Yep, they are blended family goals.

"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 as parents to listen to that, to give them the best information that we can, the best feedback that we can," Wade said. "And that doesn't change because sexuality [and gender] is now involved in it."

As "proud parents of a child in the LGBTQ+ community," Wade and Union had to educate themselves on issues pertaining to Zaya's gender identity. After Zaya came out, they reached out to people in the community—including the cast of the FX show Pose, which made history by casting the largest number of transgender actors on a scripted show in 2018. 

"It's our job to one, go out and get information, to reach out to every relationship that we have," Wade said. "My wife reached out to everybody on the cast of Pose. We're just trying to figure out as much information as we can to make sure that we give our child the best opportunity to be her best self."

Wade and Union—who have 30 million Instagram followers between them—live in the public eye and their family unfortunately doesn't always receive acceptance. Back in November 2019, Union shared a photo of her family celebrating Thanksgiving on Instagram. It's a glowing family photo, but the only thing certain Instagram users could notice were Zaya's painted nails, crop top, and scrunchie.

Wade soon after took to Twitter to defend his family, writing, "I’ve seen some post-thanksgiving hate on social about my family photo. Stupidity is apart of this world we live in—so i get it. 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 & a smile!"

See more

Through his passionate response to the internet haters, Wade demonstrated the kind of father he is and the values he upholds. Wade also told DeGeneres he hopes they can create real change by raising awareness and advocating for the LGBTQ+ community.

“I looked at her and said, 'You are a leader,'” Wade said. "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."

As a culture editor at Oprah Daily, Elena covers the latest in books, movies, TV, pop culture, and the ever-expanding world of streaming. Prior to Oprah Daily, Elena worked as an entertainment writer at Refinery29 for three years, writing about everything from royals to reality TV, and developing the site’s book section. She also got to meet Jane Fonda, but that’s another story. For fun, she likes reading, writing romances on Wattpad (and elsewhere), taking long walks in the city, and cracking herself up with elaborate Instagram stories. Her super-power is matching people up with the right book.