Dwyane Wade and his family made the decision to allow his 12-year-old daughter Zaya Wade’s story to be featured on the new ESPN documentary D. Wade: Life Unexpected. Zaya was originally born a male and was given the name Zion before opening up to her family about identifying as a female.
“So once Zaya, our 12-year-old, came home—first Zion, I don’t know if everyone knows, originally named Zion, born as a boy—came home and said, ‘Hey, I want to talk to you guys. I think going forward I’m ready to live my truth. I want to be referenced as ‘she’ and ‘her,’ I would love for you guys to call me Zaya,'” Dwyane explained on the Ellen Degeneres Show, per Harper’s Bazaar.
This led Dwyane and his wife Gabrielle Union to research how to best care for Zaya. Given Zaya is just 12 years old, Dwyane admitted it is a learning process for what they share until she is ready to tell her own story.
“Once Zaya came home and said, ‘I want you to call me Zaya and I’m ready to take on this,’ I looked at her and said, ‘You are a leader. And this is our opportunity to allow you to be a voice,'” Dwyane noted, per Harper’s Bazaar. “Right now, it’s through us, because she’s 12 years old, but eventually, it will be through her.”
Dwyane also explained that Zaya made a clear distinction between identifying as a straight transgender female rather than a gay male. The former NBA star recalled Zaya’s conversation on The Ellen DeGeneres Show.
“‘I don’t think I’m gay,'” Dwyane recalled Zaya explaining, per USA Today. “‘This is how I identify myself. This is my gender identity. I identify as a young lady. I think I’m a straight trans (girl) because I like boys.'”
Dwyane Wade ‘Struggled’ on Whether to Discuss Zaya’s Story in the ESPN Documentary
Dwyane and Gabriel wanted Zaya’s journey to inspire others, but also did not want to put too much pressure on their daughter. Dwyane admitted on Good Morning America that he struggled over the decision to discuss Zaya’s transgender identity on the new documentary given her age.
“I struggled on how much I wanted to talk about it in the doc,” Dwyane explained to Good Morning America, per E News. “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…We’ve been through so many different things that other people and other families go through and they thank us for speaking out on it. That’s what we’re trying to do. We know there are other families out there dealing with their kid finding themselves and learning who they are.”
Zaya Encouraged Others to ‘Live Their Truth’ in an Instagram Video Posted by Gabrielle Union
Gabrielle posted a video of Zaya on Instagram as an introduction to their daughter. The video featured Dwyane asking Zaya questions about how to be true to yourself, even when it is difficult.
“If they are afraid that they will be judged, I would say, don’t even think about that,” Zaya noted on the video. “Just be true to yourself, because what is the point of being on this earth if you are going to try to be someone you’re not? It’s like you are not even living as yourself which is the dumbest concept to me. It’s just like be true and don’t really care what the stereotypical way of being you is.”
Gabrielle described Zaya as “compassionate, loving and whip smart” in the Instagram post that accompanied the video.
“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,” Gabrielle noted on Instagram.