Dwyane Wade says trans daughter Zaya has identified as a girl since age 3: 'I knew early on that I had to check myself'

Erin Donnelly
·4 min read

Dwyane Wade has been warming hearts and winning praise by showing support for his 12-year-old transgender daughter Zaya, who came out to the public this month. But in an interview with Good Morning America’s Robin Roberts on Tuesday morning, the former NBA star admitted he “struggled” with the decision to speak openly about Zaya’s gender identity in his new ESPN documentary, D. Wade: Life Unexpected.

“I struggled on how much I wanted to talk about it in the doc,” he said. “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. Yes, we understand that our daughter's 12 years old. We struggled with what people would say about a 12-year-old making a decision about her life, but we also know our child.”

Together with his wife Gabrielle Union, who is Zaya’s stepmother, the recently retired basketball star has committed himself to creating a support system for his child.

“As parents, it’s our job to sit back and figure out and find the most information that we can. We’ve sat down together as a family, we've reached out to as many people as we can, we’ve researched as many things as we can to try to help not only our family but other people in this journey and along the way because one thing we do know as a family, we've been through so many things that other people and other families go through and they say 'thank you guys for speaking out on it, thank you for being a face and a voice of this because we can't.’ And that’s what we’re trying to do, we know that there’s other families out there that’s dealing with their kid finding themselves and learning who they are.”

Wade also shared that Zaya has known that she was a girl since she was 3 years old. He says he also recognized “early on” that he may need to prepare himself for some complicated questions about her gender identity.

"I knew early on that I had to check myself — that I had to ask myself questions," he explained. "As I got older and as I watched my daughter grow I had to look at myself in the mirror and say, 'Who are you? What are you going to do if your child comes home and says dad, I'm not a boy — what are you gonna do?' And that was my moment of real."

Zaya was the one who ultimately initiated the conversation.

"Zaya started doing more research,” he added. “She was the one that sat down with us as a family and said, 'Hey I don't think I'm gay.' And she went down the list and said, ‘This is how I identify myself ... I identify myself as a young lady. I think I'm a straight trans because I like boys.’ It was a process for us to sit down with our daughter and find out who she is and what she likes and not put something on her ... We decided to listen to her and she's leading us along this journey."

Gabrielle Union and Dwyane Wade have both been publicly supportive of Zaya's transition. (Photo: Rich Fury/VF20/Getty Images for Vanity Fair)
Gabrielle Union and Dwyane Wade have both been publicly supportive of Zaya's transition. (Photo: Rich Fury/VF20/Getty Images for Vanity Fair)

Wade added that while Zaya is grateful for her ability to come out and “be me,” she’s also preoccupied with standard kid issues like a mock trial at school.

“We love the fact that she doesn't have to hide who she is," Wade told Roberts. adding, “She is our leader."

He also urged parents to have conversations with their children, and to keep an open mind.

“This is no game to us,” he continued. We're about protecting her heart and about protecting her joy and to do that, we have to support them."

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