Dwyane Wade and Gabrielle Union have drawn both praise and criticism in recent years for their supportive parenting of their transgender daughter, Zaya Wade. She came out in 2020, and since then, she’s come into her own as a young person, making her runway debut at Paris Fashion Week earlier this month and being an advocate for trans people everywhere.
Today (March 15), Zaya added “magazine cover star” to her résumé as she posed for DAZED and opened up about her journey over the past few years. It’s certainly not easy to be a trans teenager in today’s world, and even more so when you’re in the public eye as she is. But, the 15-year-old is wise beyond her years and sure of herself in the face of widespread negativity online. When reflecting on how she developed such a positive self-image, she credited Union, her stepmom, with helping instill that pride in her and showing her that, “Beauty is in yourself.”
“It’s about being you and expressing yourself the way you want to,” Zaya shared. “She tries to teach me that beauty standards are arbitrary and that they don’t mean anything. They don’t matter any more; what people thought was the standard is not. And just that being myself is the best technique out there.”
Family is everything for Zaya. She stated that she feels the most empowered when she’s surrounded by those closest to her. “They are such a giant support system and have always been there for me,” she admitted. “No matter what happens, I feel strongest when I’m with them.”
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Dwyane Wade and Gabrielle Union have utilized their platform since Zaya came out to highlight the violence that Black trans people face in the U.S. today. At the 2023 NAACP Image Awards last month, the superstar couple was honored with the President’s Award, and during their acceptance speech, they took the opportunity to speak directly to Zaya and shower her with love and admiration, and to address audiences at large about the real issues that people like Zaya face every day.
“We honestly don’t approach this work as activists or leaders as much as we do this as parents — parents who love our children and will do whatever the hell we can to keep them seen and secure and safe,” Union said honestly about their speaking out about Black LGBTQ+ rights.
“This is a conversation worth having in ways that can actually build bridges — that don’t fan the flames of hatred or division. That don’t enable lawmakers or justice systems to look the other way when Black trans people are under attack. That don’t drive more young people to hate themselves or harm themselves. That don’t cost people their lives,” she continued. “We are hopeful that we may witness a real shift in the fight for justice. The moment the movement makes room for everyone. Everyone.”