Zaya Wade’s family has redefined what it means to be supportive and encouraging. Her famous folks, Dwyane Wade and Gabrielle Union have been 100% behind the teen since she began identifying as trans. While the world has criticized them, Gabrielle and Dwyane have used every opportunity to uplift and support Zaya while pushing for constructive conversations around trans-youth and parenting queer children. Gabrielle has been particularly present in her stepdaughter’s journey into womanhood. Let’s take a look at all the times Union has defended Zaya Wade from the haters.
Meet Zaya. She's compassionate, loving, whip smart and we are so proud of her. It’s Ok to listen to, love & respect your children exactly as they are. Love and light good people. pic.twitter.com/G2lLVdD2VT
— Gabrielle Union (@itsgabrielleu) February 11, 2020
Zaya Wade was born Zion Malachi Airamis Wade on May 29, 2007, to father Dwyane Wade and mother Siohvaughn Funches. While her parents divorced that same year, they continue to co-parent. In 2014 Dwyane married actress Gabrielle Union and brought her into Zaya’s life as a step-mom. Zaya has an older brother named Zaire and two younger siblings, Xavier and Kaavia.
When Zaya’s truth was revealed at the age of 11, her parents made sure to stay in front of the child and protect her from any negative feedback while still allowing Zaya to be her own person. At the time, Dwyane was participating in a docuseries and questioned if they should even include Zaya’s transition in the series since it was still so new to the family. “I struggled on how much I wanted to talk about it in the doc, I actually didn’t talk about it a lot, but I knew if I put it in the doc at all, it would be a big conversation…We struggled with what people would say about a 12-year-old making a decision about her life. But we also know our child.”
Zaya later confessed that she felt her parents “outed her.” During an interview with Taraji P. Henson’s Facebook Watch series, Union said, “Zaya’s peace is non-negotiable. As Zaya gathered more language, she was able to tell us about her identity. She was able to tell us about her sexuality. She was able to tell us, ‘I’m trans.’ Union went on to discuss the multiple times Zaya has come out starting in the third grade. The teenager also confronted her parents about ‘outing’ her accidentally when they posted a picture from her birthday party in Chicago.
Gabrielle opened up about Zaya back in March and said that it was a process to get the teen to open up to her and let her in. Union says she accomplished this by not forcing herself into Zaya’s life and allowing her space to accept her and receive her on her own terms. The two share an excellent relationship now and frequently post pictures on social media in match outfits or performing TikTok trends. This close bond has been important for Zaya, especially when she is coming under fire for just being herself.
Earlier this year, the teen rocked a jersey dress in honor of late family friend and NBA superstar Kobe Bryant. Kwame Brown took issue with this, saying that the dress was disrespectful to Bryant’s legacy. Union says it is this type of hate that makes her family and their supporters rally closer around Zaya. “It’s watching the love handle the hate that has been encouraging. We’re just loving and accepting our kids, which is not revolutionary. To some people, it’s nuts.”
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Part of her process for creating a circle of support around Zaya was getting educated on the trans experience. Union connected with the cast of FX’s Pose in order to learn more about what it means to be trans today. “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,” Dwyane said in 2021. Union also does a lot of work now around redefining beauty standards as Zaya begins to form her own perspective around womanhood and beauty.
Union is very careful about who they hire in their home and making sure their staff is all on board with their daughter and her truth. When Zaya first came out, Union prioritized making sure their home was a safe space for everyone, especially Zaya. “We made it clear that our home and anything we touch is a sanctuary. If you can’t pull it together to be decent in our home, you are not welcome in our home.” She also made sure to call Zaya’s school and ensure that the child would have no issues, creating an environment for Zaya to be free to be herself.