The internet trolls among us have actually formed their Twitter fingers to criticize retired basketball star Dwyane Wade and his wife, actress Gabrielle Union, for their decision to support Wade’s transgender daughter Zaya. She recently told her family she prefers the name Zaya to her birth name Zion, and Union posted video on Twitter Tuesday of the child explaining how important it is to live your truth. “Meet Zaya,” the actress penned. “She’s compassionate, loving, whip smart and we are so proud of her.”
In the video Union shared, Zaya is driving a golf cart with her dad riding shotgun and filming. “What’s the point of being on this Earth if you’re going to try to be someone you’re not,” the 12-year-old asked. “It’s like you’re not even living as yourself…” The video seemed to bring the empowered transphobic out of the woodworks, some interpreting Wade and Union’s support as “sexualization of children” and others outright choosing to disrespect Zaya’s choice by calling her a boy.
Meet Zaya. She’s compassionate, loving, whip smart and we are so proud of her. ItÃ¢Â�Â�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
One tweet in the slew of ignorant rants attracted the attention of April Reign, the activist who created #OscarsSoWhite. The particularly green troll who attracted a response from Reign wrote: “My son didn’t get half of recognition for being a smart black boy that graduated and is now serving in the United States Navy. I guess it only matters if my black son was to turn gay 🤔 #Zaya” Reign responded: “I’m not sure which is worse: Not knowing the difference between sexual orientation and gender identity at your big age… Or being jealous of the ‘recognition’ a 12 year old is receiving.”
Thankfully, Union and Wade have been outspoken advocates for Zaya long before the child announced her preferred name. When Wade talked about his journey as a parent with talk show host Ellen DeGeneres on The Ellen Show Tuesday, she complimented him on his parenting choices. “First of all, I think it’s what every parent should be is what you’re being right now, which is unconditionally loving your child and supporting your child in whoever they are,” DeGeneres said.
Wade thanked the host and explained why he and his wife are allies to the LGBTQ+ community. “We take our roles and our responsibility as parents very seriously,” Wade said. “So when our child comes home with a question, when our child comes home with a issue, when our child comes home with anything, it’s our job as parents to listen to that, to give them the best information that we can, the best feedback that we can, and that doesn’t change because sexuality is now involved in it.” Wade said when Zaya came home and shared a desire to be referred to with feminine pronouns, his wife reached out to the entire cast of Pose, a popular musical drama that explores issues the LGBTQ community faced in the 1980s and ‘90s.
Although Pose makes evident the progress made regarding homophobia and transphobia and effects on American policy, a quick scroll of those responding to Zaya’s news on Twitter shows just how much work there is to be done. Transgender boys reported an attempted suicide rate of 50.8% in 2018, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. That’s five times higher than the 9.8% rate for male adolescents in a survey of those between 11-19. For transgender girls, the attempted suicide rate was 29.9%, and for their female peers, it was 17.6%.
A Utah facet of the Black Lives Matter organization took to Twitter to defend Zaya specifically because of the statistics. “#zaya To everyone on the Zaya tag today who is talking sh*t about gay kids,” the organization said, “YOU are the reason that gay children have the highest suicide rate. You are the reason they are dying. Your hatred and homophobia are killing people. YOU are the problem.”
— TheyKnowInfo (@TheyKnowInfo) December 19, 2019
Wade shared a similar message in a Showtime basketball interview in December. He said he noticed when Zaya was 3 that “he wasn’t on the boy vibe” that Wade’s oldest son Zaire was on. “And I had to look myself in the mirror and say: ‘What if your son comes home and tell you he’s gay? What are you going to do? How are you going to be? How are you going to act?’” Wade said. “It ain’t about him. He knows who he is. It’s about you. Who are you?” Then, the professional athlete addressed people who say negative things about LGBTQ+ children. “Look at yourself,” he said. “Understand that you the one that got the issues. You the one got the problems.”
Let’s hope Zaya is listening less to the ignorant keyboard bullies of the world and more to the people with a vested interest in her happiness like her stepmother. “It’s Ok to listen to, love & respect your children exactly as they are,” Union said on Twitter. “Love and light good people.” Zaya’s older brother, Zaire, also penned a beautiful message to Zaya, on Instagram. “I’ve told you that I would lay my life down to make sure you are ten toes down and happy on this earth,” Zaire said on the social media platform. “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 ✊🏾”
A post shared by 🚶🏾♂️ (@zaire) on Feb 12, 2020 at 5:11am PST
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