Dwyane Wade, Trans Activist: Former NBA Star Fights Ex-Wife On Gender Changes For Their Child

Dwyane Wade, Trans Activist: Former NBA Star Fights Ex-Wife On Gender Changes For Their Child

Dwyane Wade is one celebrity of many who happens to have a trans-identifying child. While the former NBA star’s current wife, actress Gabrielle Union, is supportive of the child’s shifting names and pronouns, the Wade family is now meeting resistance from someone unexpected: the child’s mother.

Following his retirement from professional sports, Wade has become a social activist with the specific cause of trans rights. He adamantly defended Zaya’s right to “be her best self.” But which parent will prevail in this fight?

For some background: Wade married his high school girlfriend Siohvaughn Funches-Wade in 2002 and they went on to have two children, Zaire and Zion (who is currently going by Zaya). The couple broke up in 2007 and officially divorced in 2010 following a bitter court battle. Wade was granted sole custody of his two children in 2011. 

The former NBA star began dating Union in 2008. They briefly broke up in 2013, at which point Wade impregnated his friend Aja Metoyer, who gave birth to son Xavier. Wade and Union got back together and married the following year. They had daughter Kaavia via surrogate in 2018 following several miscarriages.

In 2011, Wade was also awarded full custody of his nephew, Dahveon.

The Wades’ social activism campaign began during a February 2020 guest appearance on “The Ellen DeGeneres Show,” which is when the pro basketball player announced that one of his children identified as transgender.

“We are proud, when I say proud, we are proud parents of a child in the LGBTQ+ community, and we are proud allies, as well,” Wade told DeGeneres.

“Our (then) 12-year-old came home … and said, ‘Hey, 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 and I would love for you guys to call me Zaya,’” he continued.

“We’re just trying to figure out as much information as we can to make sure that we give our child the best opportunity to be her best self.”

Host Ellen DeGeneres praised Wade for being a “loving and supportive” father to Zaya as her talk show audience erupted in applause.

The following month, Wade kept publicizing what was going on with his family by “reintroducing” his child to the world during the Better Brothers LA Truth Awards.

“Everyone allow her to re-introduce herself her name is Zaya Wade!” Wade captioned a photo of Zaya wearing a bright green tuxedo jacket and pink sash.

“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,” the 23-time NBA All-Star wrote. “She has emerged as one of the young faces and voices for the LGBTQ+ community. #truthawards.”

At the event, Wade explained the process of affirming Zaya following the child expressing a new preferred gender.

“When our 8-year-old daughter, Zaya Wade, came home and said she had something to tell us, when she came out to us, as a family, we admitted that weren’t as educated about the LGBTQ+ plus community as we should have been,” Wade explained.

The former NBA player said he and Union turned to a “male couple” to help them “navigate the right language to use, the questions to ask, and what to listen for” going forward.

“They also reminded us to make sure Zaya knew her community and felt the love and support inside and outside from home,” Wade continued. 

“From working closely with Zaya to design her room in our homes to make sure that her most authentic self was represented and that her bedroom felt like her sanctuary. Now, that may seem small, but taking the time to make sure Zaya felt seen and heard as she created her own space for us was key. It was key to Zaya’s comfort and her confidence.”

It wasn’t long before Wade went from advocating for his own child to speaking out against laws prohibiting trans-affirming surgeries for minors. 

He told CNN host Poppy Harlow that he disagrees with legislation that would make “gender-affirming” procedures on children illegal. He also disagreed with athletes being required to compete in categories that correspond with their biological sex.

“To me, it’s a joke. This is our life,” Wade said in June. “We live this. When you’re out there making rules, if you’re not experiencing this, if you’re not living this, and you’re just out there signing away and making laws, that’s not right. That’s a joke.” 

“Come and live a day in my world with my daughter. Come and see how it is to walk through this world as her,” he continued. “I just think we’re losing the human side of us.” 

“As blessed as it is for my daughter to have parents who can support her, I’m still afraid every moment she leaves the house,” Wade said. “And not just because of gun violence, but because of the way people perceive her in this world.”

The basketball pro also questioned why we’re not “educating our kids” in schools on trans issues. “You can’t close the book and what someone wants, and how they feel they are,” Wade said. “I just don’t understand.”

Now the most recent drama in the former Olympic competitor’s life involves his ex-wife, Zaya’s mother, trying to slow down her child’s transition process through legal proceedings.

Funches-Wade filed court documents to block Zaya from legally changing their name and gender before the age of 18, The Daily Wire originally reported.

“I have concerns that (Dwyane) may be pressuring our child to move forward with the name and gender change in order to capitalize on the financial opportunities that he has received from companies,” the legal filing says. 

“(Dwyane) told me that he intended to make our child very famous due to the name and gender issue and also informed me that there would be endorsements/contracts associated therewith,” it went on.

“I am concerned that our child is being commercialized at a young age and also of the uncontrollable consequences of media exposure i.e. cyberbullying, statements and/or pictures taken out of context of our child, and the unwanted spotlight focused on our child.”

Wade disagrees with those allegations and issued a lengthy statement on Instagram defending his position.

“Since this must be the new way of parenting, I guess I have to address these allegations here, which is a damn shame,” Wade wrote in the post. “While I’m on a life-changing trip in our motherland, Africa, I’ve received a social media post about me forcing our 15 year old child to be someone she’s not and to do something against her will. These are serious and harmful allegations that have hurt our children.”

“While none of us are surprised by Siohvaughn’s attempt to fight Zaya’s identity and her unwavering attempt to drag my name through the mud, I’m very disappointed that she continuously find ways of centering herself and HER needs, without regard to her children,” he continued. 

The post went on to allege that Funches-Wade wasn’t involved in Zaya’s life at all, and that she doesn’t know the situation.

“Zaya is not that same 3 year child anymore and she’s screaming that to the world but most importantly to her Mother! No one in our house would ever force Zaya or any of our children to do anything against their will, much less force an identity on them. This isn’t a game for my family and definitely not for Zaya. This is her life.”

Wade and Zaya’s biological mother battling it out in court is reminiscent of other high-profile cases of parents disagreeing on whether or not to medically transition their children who identify as transgender and if so, to what extent.

The major difference here is Wade has a huge platform and an enormous amount of capital behind him. The outcome of this legal battle is worth watching.