‘They Show Up For Me’: Zaya Wade On The Support Of Her Family, What She Wishes Adults Understood About LGBTQ+ Youth
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Zaya Wade, the 14-year-old daughter of retired Miami Heat basketball player Dwayne Wade, challenged the status quo and sparked important conversations—especially within the Black community—when she came out as trans in 2020. One of the most beautiful parts of her story has been watching the unwavering support she has received from her family. Her father and her stepmother, actress Gabrielle Union, have openly supported her—something every child deserves from their parents. 

“I like to think of my family as my big support group and my community,” she said in a new IG Live conversation with Teen Vogue. “I think they show up for me every day, whether it’s being there for me when I feel down or when there is a lot of LGBTQ+ hate out in the world.”

Wade recently sat down with the publication, the It Gets Better Project and Jeopardy champion Amy Schneider to discuss how important it is to support LGTBQ+ youth in schools and create inclusive communities. During the chat, she shared thoughts about what she wishes cisgender adults could understand about this community of young people.

“I honestly wish that a lot of adults understood and did not invalidate how confusing, uncomfortable and kind of abrupt, but also how beautiful being a part of any LGBTQ+ community is,” she said. “I do think there is ‘Oh you’re just going through this’ or ‘Oh it’s fine’ – there is a lot of invalidation of what you’re going through, even if they do accept you as trans.”

This talk came about as a response to the influx of anti-trans bills currently being proposed and passed as well as anti-gay laws and book bans. For instance, this year, South Dakota became the first state to pass an anti-transgender bill that prohibits trans women and girls from competing in school sports. 

Despite the opposition, Wade is on a mission to encourage youth who are struggling in what can be a hostile environment towards the LGBTQ+ community. She hopes that by sharing her journey and advocating, “more people can learn to accept themselves, and others, and form other communities around the world.”

“The expectation for anyone who has to represent the LGBTQ+ community is a lot and there is a lot of pressure there,” she said. “Having someone or a group of people really helps me see the positives, while also recognizing the negatives, and rise above them because I am me and no one is going to tell me otherwise anymore.”

Wade also shared her past experiences as a trans girl at school and says most that she attended were conservative and had limited knowledge when it came to LGTBQ+ matters. She also expressed that she feels she had to carry the burden of educating everyone around her and it was often overwhelming. 

Bringing the focus to the present though, Wade is optimistic about the change she’s seen. 

“I do think there is a lot more representation and more opportunity to reflect inwards based on how they are and how you caen truly be you. I think it’s a lot better, obviously, there is a long way to go, but I do think that more representation does allow for more positivity and awareness of oneself,” she said. “The journey is a little different but it is getting better.”

The It Gets Better Project uses its time and resources to empower and connect LGTBQ youth globally. They’re currently working towards combatting discriminatory legislation and bans by offering a grant initiative called 50 States, 50 Grants, 5000 Voices. The initiative aims to help schools create safe spaces for queer students to be their authentic selves. The deadline to apply is March 15.