In a new interview with Good Morning America, the 38-year-old athlete opened up about how Zaya (whom he shares with ex-wife Siohvaughn Funches) told him about her gender identity, his own journey accepting the concept and being educated by Zaya after starting out as an “ignorant” parent.
“She’s known it for nine years,” Wade revealed. “She’s known since she was three years old. Along this way, we’ve asked questions and we’ve learned. But she’s known.”
Wade added that it wasn’t until Zaya, who previously went by the name Zion, did her own research that she helped educate Wade, who hadn’t experienced anyone close to him coming out “as gay, as trans, as anything.” The experience is chronicled in his new ESPN documentary, D. Wade: Life Unexpected.
“Zaya, early on, knew two things -- she knew straight and she knew gay,” he said. “But Zaya started doing more research. She is 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. ‘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.’”
“So, it was a process for us to sit down with our daughter and find out who she is and what she likes, and not put something on her,” continued Wade, who is married to actress Gabrielle Union. “As parents, we put our hopes and we put our fears on our kids. With Zaya, we decided to listen to her. And, she’s walking us on the journey. I’m not going to sit here and act like we have all the answers. I’m not going to sit here and act like before our child sat us down, that we weren’t ignorant parents. When I say we’re learning from our 12-year-old, we’re literally learning from our child.”
While Zaya knew she was different from an early age, Wade indicated that he sensed long ago that he should prepare to deal with her choices, whatever they may be. Mentioning locker room culture, he explained that throughout his sporting career, he had been guilty of holding conversations and attitudes that wouldn’t have necessarily supported Zaya’s choices.
“I knew early on that I had to check myself,” he said. “That’s what I knew. I knew early on that I had to ask myself questions. I’ve been a person in a locker room that has been a part of the conversation that has said the wrong phrases and the wrong words myself.”