Over the past year and a half, the Wade-Union family has served as a possibility model for accepting families. In late 2019, Dwyane Wade began opening up about his then 12-year-old child referring to them with she/her pronouns before later revealing to the world that she would be called Zaya moving forward. Not long after, Zaya had a coming out of sorts in a custom red carpet look utilizing colors of the genderqueer flag. Since, she's launched her own Instagram account — always under the supervision of her parents — and both Dwyane and Gabrielle Union have been speaking out on trans issues, and inclusive parenting. Now, Dwyane is going deeper on the behind the scenes process on getting to this point.
"I'ma tell y'all something," he said as a part of a group conversation on the I Am Athlete channel. "[When Zaya was] three years old, me and my wife looked at each other was like 'What if? What if she comes home one day and says dad I'm gay or dad I'm this or that."
"So what I did was I prepared myself and said what are you going to do?"
According to Wade, when Zaya was younger she, like many children used to dress up in women's clothing. While Dwyane initially thought little of it, as it persisted he began preparing himself for the conversation that eventually arrived five years later.
"Growing up in the inner city of Chicago, in the hood, you're told that boys do this: boys play football, boys play basketball, boys play baseball, boys date girls ... whatever the case may be," Dwyane explained. "I'm no different, I'm raised that way. I'm in the locker room, I'm saying all the things that people say." The athlete explained that he said those things as that was what was normal to his environment. But when Zaya was eight years old, she had an assignment in class where everyone got to explain who they were. On Zaya's assignment, the child wrote that she was Black, and also that she then identified as gay. Dwyane credits her feeling comfortable enough to write this at the time to the fact that the teacher was a queer woman.
"At that moment everything that I was taught went out the window and my sole job and responsibility was to make sure that this kid grew up knowing that they are supported and loved by the father and the other parent," Dwyane explained. "That's my only job."
Dwyane said this changed him in many ways. He not only changed the way he talked, but how he listened to things, and challenged people when he saw something as an issue. It also pushed him to do research, reaching out to friends of Gabrielle as his own circle of those who identify as LGBTQ+ was non existent.
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"I realized I needed to be better I needed to do more and I needed to educate myself," he said. This realization came in part from Zaya being in tears and in fear when she came out to her parents after the school assignment. "It's not our job and our responsibility to tell you who you are. You are going to be who you're going to be. It's my job to try to put you in the best positions to help you reach that goal to be who you want to be."
Dwyane said it's been a constant process of learning and researching, of having conversations with Zaya and then educating themselves to best help her. But it hasn't always been easy. Before late 2019, Zaya didn't appear on social media much as a conscious choice.
"The reason we came out to the world was because I got tired of trying to hide my child," Dwyane said. The basketball star said they stopped posting photos of Zaya because after posting a photo once, there were so many negative comments that they wanted to protect her from that. "[But] it came to the point where I said am I hiding her from it or hiding myself from it."
The conversation was an emotional one with football player Brandon Marshall even shedding a tear.
Ryan Jamal Swain of Pose posted a clip of the interview to Twitter. In it, Wade discusses one of the first scenes of the show where his character Damon is thrown out after his father discovers he might be gay. Dwyane spoke of Zaya's reaction to the scene, which included realizing that she had never had that experience.
"My child has the right and ability to be whoever they want to be in this life and I'm going to make sure of it."