The retired NBA superstar, his wife, and son have handled his middle child’s identity journey admirably.
You or your belief system may not agree with the idea of gender reassignment, identifying oneself as someone other than who anatomy says you are, or anything involving the LGBTQ community for that matter; but I suspect that most of us have a similar outlook on what family should be.
Even if it was not our reality, family represents shelter and support in most of our minds. It should be a refuge from the cruelties of this world and the epitome of unconditional love — even in the absence of understanding.
This is what Dwyane, Zaire, and Gabrielle Union-Wade have demonstrated over and over again throughout the journey of Dwyane’s middle child, who was born Zion but now wishes to be referred to as Zaya and with the pronouns, she/her. What I adore most about their approach is that they are loving this kid OUT LOUD.
The Wades aren’t being supportive behind closed doors but pretending Zaya doesn’t exist when out in public. They’re not hiding her from the cameras. They’re telling the world that this is my child/sibling and though the person I once knew has changed a bit, I love them just the same.
I’m so happy for this young person who gets to be free, championed, and protected — when so many others are silenced and ostracized from their families in the wake of similar revelations. So often we try to tell our children who to be instead of letting them tell us who they are. The Wades have nailed that aspect masterfully.
If only our greatest emphasis was placed on raising kind humans. What a world this would be.
Dwyane, Gabrielle, and Zaire have each penned beautiful words of not just acceptance, but prideful adoration and steadfast support throughout Zaya’s journey. None of them has wavered in the face of ridicule. Older brother Zaire even reiterates that his sibling has been his “best friend,” and that will not change.
The family’s most recent outpouring of support came once Zaya was introduced to the world with father in tow via Instagram:
She's compassionate, loving, whip smart and we are so proud of her. It's Ok to listen to, love &…
In the video, Zaya speaks on being true to yourself despite judgement, looking in the mirror and recognizing the person that you see, and how nobody can be you, but you. She speaks on maintaining this mindset even when up against a lack of tolerance and the mean comments which are sure to come. You can scroll through some of the shameful responses for a sample.
Granted that Zaya, with her affluent parents, is in a unique situation. They can afford to cultivate every aspect of her life in the best-suited manner. Whether it be homeschooling, a therapist with whom to talk things through, security, private family getaways, or other safety measures, they can shield and nurture Zaya in ways that most others can’t.
But everyone can love without limits. That is the lesson here.
We all deserve this — if from no one else, from those charged with caring for us as children. How different many of us would be had we been so fortunate.
If wondering why I’ve used “Zaya” and “her” when referring to Wade’s middle child, the answer is simple — because this is her request. And in a world where everything else can be taken from us, all we have is our identity. At a minimum, we should be able to dictate what that will be, and feel safe and respected as we navigate our way through existence.
Just because you don’t understand something doesn’t make it wrong.
You can approve of my perspective, or not. You can agree with Dwyane and Gabrielle’s parenting, or not. You can support Zaya’s journey, or not. But you can’t argue that the Wades comprehend the ultimate concept of family. They may have just given us all a masterclass on the subject.
The only question is, how many of us will heed the lesson?