Dwyane Wade Says Daughter Zaya Knew Her Gender Identity at 3 Years Old
Dwyane Wade is further opening up about his 12-year-old daughter's gender identity, this time in an interview with Good Morning America's Robin Roberts. The retired NBA All-Star and father of five recently recalled the beautiful moment that Zaya came out as transgender to him and wife Gabrielle Union.
Following a week full of press and appearances for Dwyane, Robin wanted to know how Zaya is handling all the attention and people talking about her life and decisions. First and foremost, Dwyane said, "She's a kid that wants to focus on school."
He added: "Today she has a mock trial at school that she's stressing about, and she's like: 'Dad, I came out to everyone because I wanted to be me. And I'm thankful I'm able to be me but I want to focus on my trial at school.' She's focused. I think for her and myself and my wife and my family, we love the fact that she doesn't have to hide who she is."
Since Zaya came out, she's made it extremely clear that she is wise beyond her 12 years. She opened up about the importance of being your true self in a video Gabrielle posted to Instagram. Dwyane told Robin that Zaya's been the one to help him and their family have a better understanding of what she's going through.
"It was a process for us to sit down with our daughter and find out who she is and what she likes and not put something on her."
"She is our leader," Dwyane said. He then urged parents to have open conversations with their kids. "Zaya, early on, knew two things. She knew 'straight' and she knew 'gay.' But Zaya started doing more research. She's the one who sat down with us as a family and said, 'I don't think I'm gay.' And she went down the list and said: 'This is how I identify myself. This is my gender identity. I identify myself as a young lady. I think I'm a straight trans because I still like boys.' So it was a process for us to sit down with our daughter and find out who she is and what she likes and not put something on her. As parents, we put our hopes and we put our fears on our kids, and with Zaya, we decided to listen to her. She's leading us along this journey."
Although Zaya's gender identity does come up in his upcoming ESPN documentary, D. Wade: Life Unexpected, Dwyane told Robin he struggled with how much of Zaya's story he wanted to include in the film. "I actually didn't talk about it a lot, but I knew if I put it in the doc at all it'd be a big conversation." In fact, he said there were a few things he and Gabrielle struggled with in terms of sharing Zaya's gender identity so publicly. "Yes, we understand that our daughter is 12 years old. We struggle with what people will say about a 12-year-old making a decision about her life. But we also know our child, so we sit back and say: 'You know what? As parents, it's our job to sit back and find the most information that we can.'"
Dwyane shared that as a family, they've researched and sought out information to help themselves and other families dealing with similar scenarios, as they're aware of the unique position they're in as a famous household.
"This is no game to us. We're about protecting her heart, we're about protecting her joy, and to do that we have to support [our kids]."
"I'm not going to sit here and act like we have all the answers," Dwyane said. "I'm not going to sit here and act like before our child came home and sat us down that we weren't ignorant parents when it comes to the world. When I say we're learning from our 12-year-old, we're literally learning from our child. So the biggest thing is have an open mind. Go out and research, ask your child, ask other people questions about this, because this conversation is real. Our 12-year-old deals with this. This is her life every day. This is no game to us. We're about protecting her heart, we're about protecting her joy, and to do that we have to support [our kids]."
However, some have unsurprisingly disagreed with Dwyane's support of his child and criticized his family. "How do you handle those people who are less than supportive?" Robin asked, to which Dwyane shared: "Our family, we love. We're imperfect, but we love each other for who we are and whatever we're gonna become in life. I think we understand that we have to protect each other. We get amazing support from people. We get a lot of hate from people, but along the way, we inside, together, as the Wade family, we have to be the ones that have each other's backs. And for us, it was important that Zaya understood that her family has her back, just from the world and what people will say and what people think. But she's known that for nine years." He added, "She's known since she was 3 years old."
Although Dwyane said he has asked a lot of questions and learned a lot along the way these last nine years, originally, he knew he had to "check [himself]" when it came to his own responses. "As I got older and as I watched my daughter grow, I had to go look at myself in the mirror and say: 'Who are you? What are you gonna do if your child comes home and says, "Dad, I'm not a boy"?'" he said. "For me, that was a moment of real."
Although Dwyane admitted that before Zaya he had little to no experience with anyone in his life coming out to him, he's hoping that he's handling Zaya's situation the right way, despite those critics who say he isn't. "Inside our home we see the smile on our daughter's face. We see the confidence that she's able to walk around and be herself. And that's when you know you're doing right."