The story at a glance
- Dwayne Wade first opened up about his child’s gender identity during a podcast interview late last December, expressing his support and admiration for her.
- Wade’s 12-year-old child, who had with his first wife, was biologically born a male named Zion, and has now chosen to be identified by female pronouns she/her/his.
- Wade opened up about Zaya during a recent interview with LGBTQ talk show host Ellen DeGeneres.
- Keeping in mind that a child coming out to their parents doesn’t always result in an easy conversation, we got some advice for parents from an expert at the Human Rights Campaign, the largest group LGBTQ+ advocacy and political lobbying organization in the country.
Dwyane Wade, a former Miami Heat basketball player, is showing he can lead by example both on the court and when it comes to accepting and supporting parenthood. Last December, Wade started using the pronouns “she/her” when referring to his 12-year-old child, Zaya, who was born biologically male and named Zion.
Wade started using new pronouns to describe his child during an interview with Showtime”All the smoke” podcast in December, making a huge statement with a shift in its lexicon.
“From day one, I saw my son become what she became. And for me, it’s about… nothing changes with my love, nothing changes with my responsibilities. The only thing I have to do now is get smarter and educate myself more, and that’s my job.
During the same interview, Wade also praised his child’s strength, saying, “…you mean strength and courage? My 12 year old son has way more than me. You can learn something from your children. In our house, that’s all we talk about; we’re talking about making sure our kids are seen by all of us. Me and my wife [Gabrielle Union], we’re talking about making sure our kids understand the power of their voice. We want them to be who they think they can be in this world. That’s our goal: to understand that you can be anyone, you can be anything.
His interview with Ellen
During this Tuesday’s episode of “The Ellen DeGeneres Show‘, Wade went into even more detail with host DeGeneres, who identifies herself as LGBTQ+, about how he’s supported his 12-year-old since Zaya first told him, as well. only to Union, that she wanted to be referred to using only female pronouns.
Ellen started the conversation by expressing her support for Wade and Union’s parenting practices. “First of all, I think that’s what every parent should be, that’s what you are right now, which is to love your child unconditionally and support your child whoever they are,” said DeGeneres.
“Once Zaya… born Zion originally as a boy, came home and said, ‘Hey, so I want to talk to you guys. I think going forward, I’m ready to live my truth, and I want to be referenced as “her” and “her.” I would love for you to call me Zaya,” Wade recalled.
“So internally, now it’s our job to go out and get information, to reach out to all the connections we have, and we’re just trying to find as much information as we can to make sure we’re giving our child the best opportunity to be the best of herself.
Huge huge THANK YOU to everyone I slipped into, friends and family who provided information, resources, love and encouragement. We are humble LGBTQ+ allies with LOTS to learn and grateful for all the support. We encourage all of you to consult with us as needed. Once again thank you !
— Gabrielle Union (@itsgabrielleu) February 11, 2020
Have that conversation, and beyond
Not everyone receives the same support when coming out to their parents. Many transgender youth are ashamed of their decision to transition and tend to have higher rates of mental health issues than the general population.
A study published in The Lancet offers compelling evidence that distress and impairment, considered core features of mental disorders, in transgender people arise primarily in response to the discrimination, stigma, lack of acceptance and also abuse faced some may be regularly confronted.
This crucial conversation between parent(s) and their LGBTQ+ child(ren) isn’t always easy, so we asked expert Ellen Kahn, Senior Director of Programs and Partnerships at human rights campaignfor tips on how to show your support as a parent at such an important time in their child’s life.
How might a parent best react after hearing the news of their child identifying as LGBTQ+ in order to show support?
If you are the parent of a child who has just come out as LGBTQ, the first thing to consider is that your child has made a brave decision to open up to you and made a conscious choice about you. let it into his life and be honest. in their relationship with you. A parent can be surprised, shocked, angry – many reactions can follow and it’s normal to have a range of emotions. What is most important for your child’s well-being and for your relationship over time is to express your support, acceptance and unconditional love, even if you are still in the process of accepting the your child’s LGBTQ identity.
Just like Dwayne Wade did, one step you can take to support your child is to immediately support them, thank them for sharing, and let them know you’re in their corner. Wade immediately told Zaya that she was a leader for sharing her truth and that he would be her champion. Every child wants their parent to be their champion.
What are ways/resources that newly informed parents of LGBTQ+ children can use to better educate themselves about what their child is going through?
There are many places, local and national, to find resources to support your child. HRC has a database of coming out resources, organized by identity, religion, race and more. You’ll find statistics on the experiences of young LGBTQ people, tips for coming out at school, at the doctor’s office, at church, and more. These resources are available online on the HRC website.
You can also search for other more local resources. Is there an LGBTQ center in or near your city? Is there a support group for loved ones of LGBTQ people, like PFLAG? Often, if there is an LGBTQ Pride celebration in your area, organizations will be there to share resources and share the events they are hosting locally.
Are there any next steps a parent should take once their child comes out as transgender?
There is no one way to be a transgender person. Your child may choose to use a different name or pronouns. They may want to change the way they dress, seek a medical transition, or present themselves to the world in a different way. As a parent, it’s important that you first find out exactly what your child wants and that you believe it.
Familiarize yourself with the laws and policies in your state, city, or school district that may affect your child’s ability to live a full life. You may have to fight for your child – and if you do, there is a huge network of parents who can support you. More resources for parents of trans youth, including how to connect to this network, can be found here.
Any other tips for parents?
If you’re an educator or other youth-serving professional, you can learn more about supporting LGBTQ youth and creating youth-inclusive environments at HRC’s annual conference. It’s time to flourish conference. This year’s conference kicks off Friday in Washington, D.C.
Posted on February 11, 2020