American Zaya Wade stepped into the public arena as a trans girl in 2020 and has become a well-known young member of the transgender community.
Who Is Zaya Wade?
Zaya Wade is the elder daughter of retired basketball star Dwyane Wade. Her stepmother is actress Gabrielle Union. At 12, Zaya told her parents she was a trans girl, something her father believes she had known since she was 3. To enable Zaya to live as her true self, she and her family publicly shared her gender in February 2020. The following month, Zaya made a red carpet appearance with Dwayne and Union. Since then she has been recognized as a prominent younger member of the LGBTQ+ community.
Early Life and Parents
Zaya Wade was born on May 29, 2007. Zaya is the second child of former Miami Heat basketball star Dwyane Wade and Siohvaughn Funches. Following Dwyane’s divorce from Funches, he obtained full custody of Zaya and her older brother, Zaire Blessing Dwyane.
Zaya’s stepmother is actress Gabrielle Union, who married Dwyane in 2014. Union and Dwyane had Zaya’s younger sister, Kaavia James, via surrogate in 2018. Zaya has a younger brother, Xavier Zechariah, who Dwyane fathered in a previous relationship. Her father is also the guardian of Dahveon Morris, Zaya’s cousin.
Zaya prompted Dwyane and Union to learn more about the transgender community, an effort that included talking to the cast of Pose. “We just tried to figure out as much information as we can to make sure we give our child the best opportunity to be her best self.”
When Zaya was 8, she told her family she was gay. At the time her loved ones hesitated to reveal this due to concerns about a negative response. “When you’re in the public eye, it gets nasty,” Dwyane explained. “My child was 8 years old when she came out. She wasn’t ready for what the world had to say.”
As Zaya grew older, her understanding of herself deepened, and at 12 she said she wanted to go by Zaya and use she/her pronouns. Her father has shared, “She was the one who 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. This is my gender identity. I identify myself as a young lady. I think I’m a straight trans because I like boys.'” Zaya wanted to be able to live as her true self — but that meant being public about her gender.
Dwyane first used she/her pronouns when talking about Zaya in December 2019. While on The Ellen DeGeneres Show on February 11, 2020, he stated that Zaya was a girl and went by she/her pronouns. Following Dwyane’s Ellen appearance, Union uploaded a video on Twitter with the introduction, “Meet Zaya. She’s compassionate, loving, whip smart and we are so proud of her.” In the clip, Zaya offered words of wisdom that included, “Be true to yourself — what’s the point of being on this Earth if you’re going to try and be someone you’re not?”
“With all of the love comes the hate too,” Union has noted of the response to Zaya’s coming out as transgender. In addition to messages of support, social media contained bigoted and transphobic comments.
Public Figure and Activist
Zaya attended Miami Pride in 2019 with Union. In Los Angeles in March 2020 she went to the Truth Awards, which honor accomplishments in the Black LGBTQ+ community. There, the 12-year-old walked the red carpet with Dwyane and Union; the three sported matching custom-made suits. When asked how she felt about being an inspiration for others, Zaya answered, “I think it feels great. I feel like there was always something that I was meant to do…. I think I found it.”
“Everyone allow her to re-introduce herself her name is Zaya Wade!,” her father wrote on Instagram after the event. “Last night was Zaya’s first red carpet and we couldn’t have been prouder of how she handled the questions that were asked of her. She has emerged as one of the young faces and voices for the LGBTQ+ community.”
Coming out turned Zaya into a figure of inspiration for the LGBTQ+ community and beyond. In 2020, she was selected as one of The Advocate‘s Women of the Year and as one of The Root‘s Young Futurists as a Black individual who’s worked to improve the world.
In March 2021, Zaya interviewed former First Lady Michelle Obama in connection with the release of an edition of Obama’s memoir Becoming targeted to younger readers.