Dwyane Wade on embracing his trans daughter, Zaya: 'I just see a beautiful, blossoming, 14-year-old girl'

Dwyane Wade has, yet again, shown himself to be father of the year.

The NBA star and author of the new photographic memoir, Dwyane, recently sat down with Trevor Noah to discuss his life in the NBA, his friendship with the late Kobe Bryant and helping his trans daughter, Zaya, find herself in a world that is continuing to evolve around LGBTQ issues.

“I think when things happen personally to you, when you have a personal connection to something or someone, you take it a little bit more serious,” he said of Zaya, who came out as trans last year at just 12 years old. “When it happens to you, you have to look at it in the face. You have to.”

“[With] my daughter looking at me across the table, I have to, this is something I need to deal with in the sense of, I don’t know everything,” he continued. “As a parent, you want to make sure when your kids come to you, you have answers, you have the right words, you have the right support, whatever it is, you have the right motivation."

“At that moment, I had no answers,” he said of when Zaya first came out. “The only answer that I knew and that I had is that this is my child. I love them and I hate the pain my child is in. Seeing the pain of not being able to be confident and comfortable in who you are, you don’t want to see no one live like that. No one you love. So immediately, once the hug and embrace you just see the light. I see Zaya’s light. And for me, to be in a place where I’m not trying to dim her light. I’m trying to move out the way and give her all the light.”

He continued, “I just see a beautiful, blossoming, 14-year-old girl who’s trying to pass her test at school just like everybody else, who’s trying to find friends this year going back to school like everyone else. My wife and I, our whole role and our whole job, and we understand this, is to provide, to protect, to love, to facilitate. [As parents, we think] we have all these rules. It’s not to own. It’s not to say, ‘You’re going to be this, you're going to do that.’ It’s to find out who they are. To find out their likes, and what are their dislikes are. And try to help them through life, to find themselves. It’s not about us.”

Indeed, Wade and his wife, Gabrielle Union, continue to advocate for their daughter on behalf of other trans youth who don't have the same support.

According to research, LGBTQ youth are 120 times more likely to experience homelessness than their straight peers, many due to being kicked out of their family home by parents or guardians simply because they identify as trans. A 2018 study published in the journal Pediatrics also found that trans youth experience significantly higher levels of suicide attempts.

In an attempt to combat these statistics, the Wade family has done their part in educating the world about the real-life experiences faced by transgender people. In her first interview since coming out, Zaya herself expressed the importance of empowering queer youth, encouraging them to “experience life to the fullest.”

“I think that really includes knowing who you are truly and being able to show other people who you are, and that’s just what it’s all about,” she told Where is the Buzz TV at the Truth Awards last year. “I feel like there was always something that was like I was meant to do, but I was never able to find it...I eventually just stopped looking for it and I think I found it.”

Zaya routinely shows love for her family on social media, recently sharing a series of black and white photos with the caption, “Love them.”

This summer, she made several posts encouraging followers to see the best in themselves: “Flawless is seeing your flaws less and living your most authentic life in celebration of YOU!” she wrote in April.

Union continues to advocate for Zaya as well, telling Good Morning America last year that she’s helped the family see a bigger picture, one that is inspiring them to help others.

“We’re still kind of getting used to being recognized for just doing things that have really kind of come naturally, like loving your kids as they are, which is weird to get credit for that,” she said, while dismissing “the level of hate based off of everything but the facts,” including “a lot of people in the Black community that would not accept someone of transgender community. And look at them as different and not worthy of life.”

Union added, "When you are in the fight for equality you have to embrace every life as being worthy of and deserving of equality. You can’t pick and choose."