Zaya Wade is the daughter of Basketball star Dwyane Wade. Born in 2007, Zaya is now 15 years old and a public figure, thanks to her decision to be open about her transition into a young lady. Dwyane is currently raising her with his wife, Gabrielle Union. Zaya was born May 29, 2007, and her mother is Siohvaughn Funches. They initially named her Zion Malachi Airamis Wade and raised her by her gender assigned at birth, male. Zaya began displaying characteristics that Dwyane and his wife initially dismissed as her being gay. As they empowered Zaya and encouraged her to figure out who she was, the teen realized that she was, in fact, trans and female.
While Dwayne initially wanted to protect Zaya from the world out of fear of people not understanding, the brave teen has opted instead to be a public figure and voice for other trans youth. She’s done interviews with Michelle Obama, spoke at events, and walked runways for gender non-conforming lines like Gypsy Sport.
Dwayne Wade Initially Believed Zaya Wade Was Going Through A Phase
While Dwyane is completely accepting and supportive of Zaya, he admits that he thought her gender and sexuality identities might have been part of a phase. In creating space for his own daughter, he recalled moments in his life when he did things just to try them.
During an interview with I Am Athlete, Wade remembers trying on his sister’s clothing. Wade remembers just wanting to do whatever his sister did, like wear heels or try on dresses. While this was not indicative of his gender identity, the experience made it easier for him to initially dismiss Zaya’s transition as a phase or fleeting interest in women’s clothing. “I used to do all those things. I tried to put on whatever my sisters wear, whatever my sisters did, I tried to do those things.”
Zaya has made it clear that her transition is not a phase or passing interest and is actually an act of freedom. She is part of a campaign for LogoTV, where she discusses finding her authenticity and living in her truth. Being out and open and truthful about who I am to myself and others is just freeing,” she said in the accompanying video. “Being trans is such a huge part of who I am.”
Zaya began her transition in 2020 and immediately became the face of trans youth. The Wade family decided to reveal Zaya’s transition during a documentary about her dad because Dwyane felt it was a way to showcase it without completely putting the spotlight on her or making her some kind of clickbait. “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.”
FULL INTERVIEW: NBA superstar @DwyaneWade opens up to @robinroberts about daughter Zaya’s gender identity and why it was important to feature this journey his new @ESPN documentary. https://t.co/ZdCAUU3gAQ pic.twitter.com/Bf6xUJQvcx— Good Morning America (@GMA) February 18, 2020
Zaya has not shied away from the platform either. One listen to her interviews, and it’s clear how important Gabrielle Union is in her life. Not only is Union a fierce ally but a guiding light for Zaya, allowing her to figure out her own version of womanhood. Zaya also talks in the same quick-tongued matter-of-fact tone as Union, with just as much conviction and confidence as her A-list step mommy.
Despite having such a powerful foundation and being such a grounded family, this does not mean that people do not come for the Wades. This year alone, some criticized Zaya for rocking a designed Jersey Dress in honor of Kobe Bryant on the anniversary of his and Gigi’s plane crash. Zaya and her family were close to the Bryants, who took no issue with the outfit. However, NBA player Kwame Brown insisted on misgendering Zaya and saying how disrespectful the dress was to Kobe’s legacy. Rapper Lil Boosie has also been critical of the Wades, frequently misgendering Zaya and making assumptions about her lifestyle and transition.
Dwayne is very protective of his daughter but admits that even the worst comments only open up room for constructive conversations, something he always welcomes. Gabrielle Union has made sure that she protects the family internally and does not let people into their home that’ll make Zaya or any member of the family uncomfortable. “We made it clear that our home and anything we touch is a sanctuary,” she told news outlets after telling a story about Zaya coming out.