Dwyane Wade is a legendary basketball player, and Gabrielle Union is a beloved actress. They’re also, from what we’ve seen this week at least, pretty great parents.
This week, they opened up about their 12-year-old, who has made the decision to live as a girl. Rather than speak for her, the couple let Zaya (who was named Zion at birth) speak for herself.
“What’s the point of being on this earth if you’re going to try to be someone that you’re not?” Zaya says to her father in a video Union posted to Twitter and Instagram on Tuesday. “You’re not even living as yourself, which is the dumbest concept to me.”
Later on, she talks about how gratifying it can be to be able to look in the mirror and “say hi to yourself, ‘nice to meet YOU.’ Instead of, ‘I don’t really know who I am.’”
Zaya’s transition, and what it means for the family, is also featured in an upcoming documentary about Wade’s life. He opened up about his role as the parent of a trans kid in an interview with Ellen DeGeneres on Tuesday.
“It’s our job as parents to listen, to give them the best information that we can,” he said. “And that doesn’t change because sexuality is now involved in it.”
A little while ago, he explained, his kid — then named Zion — told him and Union that she wanted to use she/her pronouns, and wanted to be called Zaya.
When that happened, he and Union both started researching everything they could about trans identity, he said.
“We’re just trying to figure out as much information as we can to make sure we give our child the best opportunity to be her best self.”
They chose to make the transition public, with Zaya’s permission, because they felt people could learn from her.
“Once Zion came home and said ‘I’m Zaya,’ I said, ‘You are a leader,’” Wade told Ellen. “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.”
Zaya’s older brother Zaire, who’s 17, also shared his support with a tribute on Instagram, alongside photos of the two of them when they were younger.
“I’ve told you that I would lay my life down to make sure you are ten toes down and happy on this earth,” he wrote. “I don’t care what they think Z, you are my best friend and I love you kid, and if it means anything, just know there’s no love lost on this side.”
Wade and Union have long been supportive of Zaya’s individuality, even before her gender identity was clear. Wade posted photos of the family at Miami Pride in April.
“I don’t really talk about it much because it’s Zion’s story to tell,” Wade told Variety at the time. “I think as a family, we should support each other. That’s our job. And my job as a father is to facilitate their lives and to support them and be behind them in whatever they want to do.”
Kids know their gender identity from a young age
A British and American joint study published last year found that trans kids as young as three years old were able to understand their gender identity.
“One of the most consistent themes is that at some early point, sometimes as early as age three to five, there’s this feeling that the individual is part of another gender group,” said Charlotte Tate, a psychologist at San Francisco State University and herself a trans woman, speaking to The Atlantic.
When told that they’re part of their assigned gender, “they’ll say, ‘No, that’s not right. That doesn’t fit me.’ They have self-knowledge that’s private and that they’re trying to communicate.”
The Wade/Union family is big, blended, and highly Instagrammable. Together, the couple parents Zaya and Zaire, Wade’s biological kids with his first wife, Siohvaughn Funches, his seven-year old son Xavier, whose mother is his longtime friend, Aja Metoyer, and his sister’s son, Dahveon. In November 2018, the couple also welcomed their baby girl, Kaavia.
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