Dwyane Wade and Gabrielle Union have been outspoken advocates for their daughter, Zaya Wade. So when Zaya’s birth mother Siohvaughn Funches-Wade filed a court petition objecting to legally changing Zaya’s name, and claimed that the three-time NBA champion was trying to profit off Zaya’s name and gender change, Wade went to social media and showed off his fierce parenting prowess.
“Since this must be the new way of parenting, I guess I have to address these allegations here, which is a damn shame,” Wade wrote on Instagram.
He went on: “This report came out while Zaya was in class. This is a kid who has maintained a 4.0 GPA in honors classes while navigating all this unsolicited and harmful attention and debates about her gender and sexuality from those who are committed to not listening to her, much less even knowing her.” (A hearing is set for Dec. 12 in the case.)
Wade added that his family would never “force an identity” on Zaya, 15, or any of their children. Wade is also dad to Zaire Wade, 20, whose birth mom is also Funches-Wade; Xavier Zechariah Wade, 8, with Aja Metoyer; and Kaavia James Union Wade, 3, whom he shares with Union.
“This isn’t a game for my family and definitely not for Zaya. This is her life!” he wrote.
More on the Instagram post:Dwyane Wade responds to ex-wife’s court filing to stop daughter’s gender and name change
Experts say this celebration of Zaya and her identity is exactly what transgender kids need to hear from parents and medical professionals – and not a moment too soon. Anti-LGBTQ sentiment and legislation are pervasive; more than half of U.S. states introduced or enacted such bills, including health care restrictions.
“Dwyane Wade’s comments were everything a trans child wants to hear from their parent,” says Moe Ari Brown, licensed marriage and family therapist. “He celebrated Zaya’s identity and expressed a desire to engage actively in her life. From the social and medical to the personal aspects of gender transition, he exemplifies what it means to see your child as they want to be seen and not as who you thought they would be when they were assigned biological sex at birth.”
Gender identity is a spectrum, experts say. Someone who is born with sex characteristics of boys or girls may actually be the opposite gender, or may not identify with either gender at all. These people require care – known as gender-affirming care –as they navigate their identities.
The care can also simply look like a social transition such as using a name, picking out different clothes or styling hair differently. “Helping a young person express their identity in ways that are separate from medical care is a form of expressing gender-affirming care for who they are,” Jonah DeChants, research scientist at The Trevor Project, previously told USA TODAY.
Important:As state laws target transgender children, families flee and become ‘political refugees’
Not everyone who actually wants gender-affirming care has the means to access it. Only 14% of young people (through age 24) who said they wanted gender-affirming hormone therapy actually received it, for example, according to a study last year from The Trevor Project.
About 80% of those who received gender-affirming hormone therapy had at least one parent support their gender identity.
Wade has exemplified support for Zaya throughout her coming out journey, which began publicly more than two years ago. “We’re all about protecting her heart, we’re about protecting her joy and to do that, we have to support her,” Wade said in 2020.
How can parents of transgender children show support
Parents of transgender children should look to PFLAG or local LGBTQ centers for information and support groups. Those trying to learn can read or watch reputable media sources, check out medical association standards or chat with a personal trusted medical professional.
Here are some great places to start:
Seeing a celebrity like Wade speak out too, could change hearts and minds.
“(Wade’s) ability to listen to his teenage daughter and articulate a nuanced understanding of her identities says a lot about his ability to be curious, grow with his child as she evolves, and love her unconditionally,” Brown says. “So often, trans youth in this country are written off and told that they are too young to understand gender. I want more parents to be a rock for their trans children as they already face so much hurt from the world outside their immediate families.”
More details:What to know about gender-affirming care for transgender and nonbinary communities
Contributing: Scooby Axson
Story Credit: usatoday.com