Dwyane Wade Says Daughter Zaya Was Scared to Come Out to Him: “I Had to Check Myself”

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Dwyane Wade spoke to the importance of self-awareness in parenting during a talk at the Creative Artists Agency Amplify event in Ojai, CA, on June 27. Speaking with NBA player Chris Paul and manager Lisa Metelus, Wade reflected on his daughter, Zaya Wade, being “scared” to speak to him about her transgender identity. At the time, Zaya was so afraid of coming out to her father that she physically hid in Gabrielle Union’s arms.

“I had to go look myself in the mirror and ask myself: ‘Why was my child scared? Scared to tell me something about herself?'”

“I came home and I just remember my child being scared to talk to me, like hiding in my wife’s arm in a chair,” he said, according to NBC News. For Wade, who is a father of five, the fear on his daughter’s face gave him a new perspective and forced him to reevaluate his parenting techniques. “I think I’m this dad that’s like, ‘Hey, come and tell me anything! I’m a cool dad,'” he continued. “And it was fear in my child’s face to tell me and so I had to check myself. I had to go look myself in the mirror and ask myself: ‘Why was my child scared? Scared to tell me something about herself?'”

Following the initial conversation about his daughter’s identity, Wade began to listen to Zaya more deeply and do his own research to build on his perspective using information from experts in the LGBTQ+ community. For Wade, the moment also opened up an opportunity to reflect on his masculinity. “In a lot of work as parents – and as people – what we do is we put our fears and everything on our kids. And I guess I was doing that,” he said. “So I had to go look myself in the mirror and ask myself . . . ‘What is it about my masculinity that has my child afraid?'”

According to Wade, Zaya, who recently celebrated her 16th birthday, has been aware of her gender identity since she was 3 years old. He added that Zaya came out as gay in the third grade. “What’s the point of being on this earth if you’re gonna try to be someone you’re not?” Zaya said during an intimate conversation with her father in 2020. “It’s like you’re not even living as yourself. Just be true and don’t care what the stereotypical way of being you is.”

Shortly after Zaya came out to her parents, Wade recalled his initial reaction to the news in a 2020 interview on “The Ellen DeGeneres Show.” “[Gabrielle and I] take our roles and responsibilities as parents very seriously, so when a child comes home with a question, when a child comes home with an issue, it’s our job as parents to listen to that and to give them the best information that we can,” he said at the time. “That doesn’t change because sexuality is now involved in it.”

In another 2020 interview on Naomi Campbell’s YouTube show, “No Filter With Naomi,” Union added, “What we’ve realized through our very public journey is that us loving our children unconditionally has inspired other people to love their children unconditionally. And it doesn’t mean you have all the answers or you’re gonna get everything right. But, it’s step one, love your babies. They don’t need to be mini versions of you. They can be happy, healthy, and successful without doing everything that you did. Just love them and release them to be themselves.”

The same year, Union, Wade, and Zaya wore coordinated outfits adorned with the colors of the genderqueer and nonbinary pride flag while walking the red carpet at the 2020 Truth Awards in Los Angeles. Inspired by his own father’s parenting approach, Wade – who has expressed fear for his daughter’s safety – told NBC that he hopes to combat “miseducation” on what it means to be transgender. “I think the hardest part about it is shutting out the world and shutting out the people that really are not in [our] circle,” he said. “But they have opinions and we are a public-facing family.”

Related: Zaya Wade Says “Positives” of Her Inclusive Platform Outweigh “All of the Negativity”

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