Earlier this year, Dwayne Wayde’s then 12-year-old daughter came out as transgender. Her revelation was met with total support from both Wade and her stepmother, Gabrielle Union. Wade first opened up about his daughter’s transition (with her permission) during an appearance on Ellen back in February where he described the moment when his daughter announced that she was ready to live her truth:
“Once Zaya… originally born Zion as a boy – came home and said, ‘Hey, so I want to talk to you guys. I think going forward I’m ready to live my truth, and I want to be referenced as ‘she’ and ‘her.’ I would love for you guys to call me Zaya” – Wade
Wade then went on to describe his family’s commitment to gathering all the information that they could and spread it to everyone they knew. This included Gabrielle Union reaching out to cast members of the FX show, Pose (a series exploring the lives of Black and Latinx members of the LGBTQ+ community set in late 1980s New York) for insight.
Following the interview, Gabrielle Union introduced the world to her daughter to the world on social media. In a series of tweets praising Zaya, Union also thanked all the people that she reached out to for information and guidance which helped Union and Wade support Zaya in her transition.
Meet Zaya. She's compassionate, loving, whip smart and we are so proud of her. It’s Ok to listen to, love & respect your children exactly as they are. Love and light good people. pic.twitter.com/G2lLVdD2VT
— Gabrielle Union (@itsgabrielleu) February 11, 2020
Following his parents’ stellar examples, Zaire Wade posted a heartfelt message to his new sister on Instagram
View this post on Instagram
Man, I remember bugging my mom as a kid telling her I wanted a brother so bad. I was the only child looking for company and someone to look after and take care of. I have been blessed to have my best friend, Zaya with me for 12 years. We did everything together…we fought, we played, we laughed and we cried. But the one thing we never did was leave each other behind… I’ve told you that I would lay my life down to make sure you are ten toes down and happy on this earth. I don’t care what they think Z, you are my best friend and I love you kid, and if it means anything, just know there’s no love lost on this side ✊🏾
The family unity was further put on display for Zaya’s medieval-themed 13th birthday party, which she posted photos of on her Instagram with the caption #HappyPride.
Zaya Wade is not the first celebrity child to come out as trans, but the outpouring of support from fans and news media outlets alike has been markedly different than those who have come before her.
When Chaz Bono (Son of acclaimed 70s variety pop duo, Sonny and Cher) began transitioning in 2008, he was mocked in media outlets who continuously referred to him by feminine pronouns well into the mid-2000s. When Chaz competed on dancing with the stars in 2011, the series faced backlash for allegedly pushing an LGBT “agenda” on viewers.
Chaz’s struggle to become “the person he was always meant to be” and find acceptance from his family and peers as he transitioned was documented in the film, Becoming Chaz. In the documentary Chaz stated that his mother had “already struggled to accept [Chaz] as a lesbian, now she has to cope with losing a daughter and gaining a son.” Thankfully, Cher was able to cope with the change and welcomed her new son.
John Jolie Pitt
For John Jolie-Pitt, whose parents have openly supported his gender identity since 2008, the struggle for the media to accept him as a boy continues. When Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie first revealed to the public that their then 3-year-old wanted to be a boy and be called John, critics went wild with disapproval.
Most diverted to the time-honored garbage argument against allowing kids to transition, insisting that no 3-year-old can decide their gender or even has a concept of it. It’s just a phase they’re reinforcing and in doing so, they were harming “Shiloh.” This in itself was interesting, given none of them would argue that dressing girls in pink and buying them dolls is unnecessarily pushing a gender on a child or psychologically damaging, even though it technically is both.
To date, media outlets have given little regard to John’s gender identity and still refer to him as Angelina and Brad’s Daughter. Even when acknowledging that John is trans, pop culture magazines continue to use his birth name and feminine pronouns for their fluff pieces about which of his beautiful parents John most resembles.
The introduction of Zaya to the world was not without backlash, a few people did feel the need to respond with idiotic and repressive transphobic remarks. Still, the overwhelming majority of people responded in praise and congratulations. This shows major steps in society’s ability to accept trans people for who they are.
Gabrielle and Dwayne’s public and vocal support for Zaya is an exemplary model of progressive and positive parenting. Parenting centered on the focus on uplifting and maintaining the mental health/ wellbeing of children rather than forcing them to adhere to societal norms. It also is reflective of the huge strides African American parents have taken towards acceptance of LGBTQ+ youth.
Historically, Black members of the LGBTQ+ community, especially trans women, have struggled with being ostracized and rejected by their family and the African American Community. This is largely due to a combination of deeply rooted conservative Christian values, the emasculation of African American men in media (ex: the pressures put on black male comedians to wear drag), and the practice of bronco busting during slavery (google it) which sought to break strong black men in the most humiliating way possible (seriously, google it).
Simply put, it’s a complicated issue with roots in misogyny and systematic oppression, which resulted in generations of black queer, gay, and trans people being be thrown to the wolves. This is a trend that progressive modern-day African American parents are working diligently to break.
I would love for Zaya to meet to our girls, Trinity, 16 (transitioned at 4) and Hyperion, 9 (transitioned this December). Us Black parents showing that loving our trans babies saves them and us! pic.twitter.com/f1UbAYHr00
— DeShanna N (she/they) (@Trinsmamabear) February 12, 2020
These strides towards acceptance of LGBTQ+ youth, especially trans girls and women, have a larger importance to Black LGBTQ+ youth than just being “accepted” for who they are. The intersectionality of race, gender, and sexuality creates exceptionally difficult lives for LGBTQ+ African Americans who are marginalized within their families, society, and within the gay community. The data is particularly heartbreaking for black trans women who are at exponentially increased risk of sexual violence, murder, extreme poverty, and suicide.
The first step in overcoming these statistics, begins with nurturing and loving parents, family, and communities providing trans children the love and support needed to thrive in life.
Thrive Zaya, Thrive!