Zaya Wade knew her true gender identity at a very young age and came out as transgender before becoming a teenager. The young girl recently sparked debate when she kissed her boyfriend.
In February 2020, Dwyane Wade released a personal documentary titled "D. Wade: Life Unexpected." The former National Basketball Association (NBA) player shared a glimpse of his life off the court in the documentary.
At the time, his daughter, Zaya Wade, was 12, and he came out to reveal how much he supported her gender identity. Speaking to "Good Morning America (GMA)," Dwyane said he and his family loved that Zaya didn't have to hide who she was.
Dwyane Wade embracing Zaya Wade during a halftime celebration on January 20, 2019, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. | Source: Larry Radloff/Icon Sportswire/Getty Images
He proudly described his daughter as "our leader." Zaya has continuously shown all her leadership qualities by fearlessly and relentlessly choosing to live life as her true self.
One of those bold moves was when she publicly showed off her boyfriend. At the tender age of 14, Zaya had proven that she's an activist, and in this piece, we get to know her better.
ZAYA'S COMING OUT STORY
Zaya was born as a boy and named Zion. Speaking to GMA, Dwyane revealed how his daughter had known her true identity for nine years, since age 3, and did research before sitting her family down and said:
"Hey I don't think I'm gay... I identify myself as a young lady. I think I'm a straight trans, because I like boys."
The retired professional basketball player admitted that it was a process for him and his wife, Gabrielle Union, to sit down with Zaya to discover who she was. They also had to figure out what she liked while avoiding deciding for her.
Dwyane shared how they chose to listen to their daughter and allow her to lead them on this journey of self-discovery. When asked if he knew earlier that Zaya identified as a transgender girl, he replied:
"I knew early on that I had to check myself. ... I've been a person in the locker room that has been a part of the conversation that has said the wrong phrases and the wrong words myself."
The former athlete shared how, "As parents, it's our job to sit back and figure out and find the most information that we can." At age 12, Dwyane's daughter decided on the name she preferred to use, with her father recalling:
"Once Zaya came home and said, 'Call me Zaya,' and 'I'm ready to take on this,' I looked at her and said, 'You are a leader. It's our opportunity to allow you to be a voice.'"
The former NBA star also confessed how Zaya was his first interaction when having such conversations. Even though he came off quite sure of himself, Dwyane proved he was just a parent navigating his child's truth, stating:
"Hopefully I'm dealing with it the right way... Inside our home we see the smile on my daughter's face...
Union's husband added, "we see the confidence that she's able to walk around and be herself, and that's when you know you're doing right." Judging by how open and honest Zaya has been, it seems her parents are doing right by her.
ZAYA'S SIGNIFICANT OTHER
In April 2022, for the Easter holidays, Zaya publicly debuted her partner, Hudson. In a series of Instagram family photos, two of the images featured Dwyane's daughter with her boyfriend, whom she described as her "s/o" or significant other.
One of their pictures showed them hugging, while in the second one, the pair posed for a photo while sitting on a couch. Zaya's father also shared a family picture with his daughter embracing Hudson.
"The Real Daytime" revealed that Zaya's partner was also transgender. However, a post that had people divided and sparked a lot of debate was one that Zaya shared of her kissing her partner.
Some people felt it was inappropriate for the teenage girl to publicly kiss her partner at the tender age of 14. Others thought the same behavior wouldn't have been allowed if Zaya wasn't transgender.
Judging from Dwyane's images, his daughter wasn't the only one who was allowed to bring their partner over for the holidays. The star's son, Zaire Wade, was photographed embracing his girlfriend, Lola Ann Clark, in the family photo.
Out Magazine thought there was nothing controversial about Zaya and Hudson kissing, as their relationship was still between two teenagers. According to the publication, Hudson's preferred pronouns are he/him.
During a November 2021 Instagram Live "Today" show interview, Dwyane revealed that he supported Zaya as she navigated the dating world. Those who wish to see Zaya's photos with her boyfriend can view them at the beginning of this video.
Swipe through the former NBA player's daughter's photos to see more images of the young couple. Like anyone who comes out as different, Zaya has had to contest with a lot of negativity because of who she is.
THE HATEFUL COMMENTS ZAYA RECEIVED ABOUT HER FEMININITY
Zaya initially came out as transgender in 2020, and while we are now living in the 21st century, navigating the world as her true self isn't easy. In a joint the Dove Self-Esteem Project interview with Union, she said:
"As a trans person, once I came out, there was a lot of hateful comments about how I should grow my hair out long or fit into a certain version of femininity, even though that's not true at all."
Dwyane's daughter continued, "That kind of advice is just trying to break you, but don't let it." Union, who is Zaya's stepmother, shared how she and her husband emphasized inner beauty to all their children, with the actress stating:
"You can be a 'stunner' or 'classically beautiful person' but if your soul is rotten, you are not very beautiful at all."
Zaya revealed how she was taking her stepmother's advice to heart, noting how she didn't have to believe everything people said. She felt the only thing she had to believe was what she felt and what beauty meant to her.
Reiterating Union's words, the teenager said, "I think focusing on inner beauty is the most important." Zaya hoped that other girls and teenagers like her would see the Dove campaign and join her in their #DetoxYourFeed movement.
She said, "We don't need to follow anyone into feeling unworthy or not beautiful." Union's stepdaughter rallied others saying, "We have the power over our own feeds to remove the content that doesn't make us feel good."
In March 2021, [Gabrielle] Union's stepdaughter [Zaya Wade] got to interview former First Lady Michelle Obama...
Zaya concluded, "and instead flood our feeds with the positivity that we both want to see and put out into the world." The young girl doesn't only encourage people to live in their truth but acts on it!
WHAT IS ZAYA DOING NOW?
Zaya has since become a public figure, and in 2019, she attended Miami Pride with her stepmother. In March 2020, at age 12, she attended Los Angeles' Truth Awards, which honor Black LGBTQ+ people's accomplishments.
She was accompanied to the event by her father and Union, where the three wore matching outfits. When Zaya was asked how she felt about being an inspiration, she said, "it feels great" and that it was "something that I was meant to do... I think I found it."
The little girl might be pretty young, but she's already an activist. When she came out, Dwyane's daughter became an inspiration for many people in the LGBTQ+ community, and in 2020, she was chosen as The Advocate's Women of the Year.
Zaya also nabbed The Root's Young Futurists for being a Black person who improved the world. In March 2021, Union's stepdaughter interviewed former First Lady Michelle Obama about releasing her memoir "Becoming," which targeted younger readers.