Zaya Wade made the courageous step to live out her truth at the young age of 12 last February and has received a world of love. Yet at the same time, the young teenager was the recipient of intense backlash and discrimination. The world can be an already scary place while growing up, but with the addition of being African-American and LGBTQ+, it can be a hell of a lot scarier. Thankfully she’s had unconditional love and support from her family.
Zaya’s father, NBA player Dwyane Wade had an interview with Ellen Degeneres on her daytime talk show where he talked about the moment she opened up to her parents about her gender identity. “When Zaya 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.’ So internally it’s our job to, one, go out and get information, to reach out to every relationship that we have,” said Wade. “My wife reached out to everyone on the cast of Pose. We just tried to figure out as much information as we can to help our child be her best self.”
Although she’s now 13, Dwyane told Good Morning America that this didn’t just come on a whim for Zaya. “Zaya has known it for nine years,” he stated to Roberts. Her parents have been there for her journey and continue to, with Zaya’s step-mother actress Gabrielle Union loving the authenticity she is now living in.
“We have another daughter who is 13, who has freedom to be exactly who she is, who she was born to be, to be her most authentic self,” the actress said in an interview with Time. “She doesn’t ask permission to exist. That is wildly inspiring.”
Zaya’s journey has been lathered with backlash from some members of the general public who feel as though a young child shouldn’t be “making these kinds of decisions.” Pictures of Zaya attending Pride events with her family were the subject of much social media backlash. Union spoke with US Weekly where she explained that as a child, she too attended events surrounding Pride with her family.
“It feels normal,” Union said. “My mom took me to my first pride at eight years old. We moved to San Francisco, and it’s kind of part of being a global citizen. People talk a lot about diversity and inclusion, but they don’t actually mean it. In our household, we mean that, and that’s why the entire household went to pride.”
Through the negative comments, however, Zaya chooses to not allow it to affect her. “[To anyone] who is afraid they’re going to be judged, I would say don’t even think about that. Just be true to yourself, because what’s the point of even living on this earth if you’re going to try to be someone you’re not?” Zaya said in a clip with her father. “It’s like you’re not even living as yourself. Be true and don’t really care what the ‘stereotypical’ way of being you is.”