Zaya Wade is one of The Advocate's Women of the Year. View the full list from the current issue of the magazine.
Despite great moments of progress and all the leaps and bounds that have been made in recent decades when it comes to visibility, representation, and acceptance, it’s still not exactly easy being a young member of the LGBTQ+ community in 2020.
The same discrimination, anxieties, and fears that past generations of queer people have experienced — like wanting to be accepted for who you are and not wanting to disappoint and be disowned by the ones you love — still very much exist to this day, and when you add onto that threat of hateful criticism and bullying from peers and strangers, both online and in real life, the youth of Gen Z still have it plenty tough.
Zaya Wade, the 12-year-old transgender daughter of NBA legend and former Miami Heat shooting guard Dwyane Wade, knows this concept all too well.
Ever since attending Miami Pride in 2019 with her superstar stepmom (Bring It On, Deliver Us from Eva, and Being Mary Jane actress Gabrielle Union), the tween, whose pronouns are she/her and who was assigned male at birth but now identifies as female, has become one of the trans community’s younger, more visible faces.
While it’s always great to see parents who love and support their queer or trans kids, because of how well-known the Wade family is, and because of the hyper-masculine sporting world her father is a part of, Zaya has also been the subject of many harsh, uncalled for, and extremely vocal transphobic attacks on social media. Some of the hate directed at Zaya (and by association, Wade) even came from other celebrities of note, like rappers Young Thug and Boosie Badazz, the latter of which made extremely crass comments about transitioning.
Although Zaya probably never intended to become the face of a still-evolving movement, her continued bravery in the wake of hatred perfectly exemplifies the kind of courage it takes to live your best life and be your most authentic self, especially when living under the microscope of social media. This courage makes her an inspiration and beacon for all youth who are still discovering their identities and their place in this world.
“We want [our kids] to be whoever they feel that they can be in this world,” Wade said when asked about his love for Zaya in an interview on the All the Smoke podcast in 2019. “In our household, that’s all we talk about… We talk about making sure our kids [are] seen by each of us. Me and my wife, we talk about making sure our kids understand the power in their voice.”
Here’s betting Zaya Wade knows full well the power she holds and she’s using it wisely.