Dwyane Wade appeared on a panel this week and talked about a moment that forced him to reflect on his parenting.
In conversation with Chris Paul and manager Lisa Metelus, he explained that for years, he was prepared for Zaya to come out because she had described herself as gay in a school assignment. But he says when the time came for her to come out as trans, Zaya had “fear” on her face.
"So I came home and I just remember my child being scared to talk to me, like hiding in my wife's arm in a chair," he said. "I think I'm this dad that's like, 'Hey, come and tell me anything! I'm a cool dad. And so I had to check myself. I had to go look myself in the mirror and ask myself: 'Why was my child scared? Scared to tell me something about herself?'"
He then spoke about the public reaction to Zaya coming out as trans, saying the world went “crazy” and he endured a lot of backlash for accepting his daughter.
"I became all kinds of things because I support my child and being who she is. I've become 'gay,'" he said, later adding that his family struggled with society’s “miseducation” of what it means to be trans. "I think the hardest part about it is shutting out the world and shutting out the people that really are not in (our) circle, but they have opinions and we are public-facing family."
Yesterday, I wrote about the difficulty Black men face existing in LGBTQ+ spaces. And not necessarily because they now exist in these spaces, but because they now face rejection from the spaces in which they originally belonged to. I touched on being faced with the polarizing decision of which space they want to exist in more. And as Dwyane is speaking so candidly here, he is validating that that is also very much the case for the people who do choose to support their LGBTQ+ family members and friends after they come out.
One of the key differences between Dwyane and many parents who find themselves in a situation where their child is claiming sexual or gender identity is that he took it upon himself to look inward. It’s not something that’s very common, particularly in the Black community. Black families are notorious for emphasizing the importance of respecting elders. That often means their way is not only the right way, but the only way. In addition to that, religion, in some way, is often at play and used as a defense to not have to accept someone’s way of life when it contradicts traditional teachings of the Bible, or people’s interpretation of it.
I love that he made the choice to meet Zaya where she was at. And rather than further intimidate her, he chose to explore why she may have been so fearful. And it makes perfect sense that she did feel that way. She knew that she was part of, as Dwyane said, a public-facing family.
Dwyane went on to talk about what he was doing wrong as a parent, saying:
"In a lot of work as parents — and as people — what we do is we put our fears and everything on our kids. And I guess I was doing that," he said. "So I had to go look myself in the mirror and ask myself... What is it about my masculinity that has my child afraid?"
This type of reflection on parenting doesn’t seem to have even been a thought for Zaya’s biological mother, Siohvaughn Funches-Wade. Back in November I wrote about Dwyane’s efforts to legally change Zaya’s name and have her be recognized as female on all legal documents – which didn’t sit well with Siovaughn.
Again, religion seems to be at play in why Siovaughn refused to accept her daughter’s true identity. In an Instagram post that is still up on his page, he cited Siovaughn’s claim of being a Christian mother being contradictory with her efforts to be active in the lives of her kids – and not just Zaya, but all of the kids they share together.
“As a woman who claims to be a good Christian mother, I’ve yet to see her make any sacrifice or effort to leave her own home to participate in our children’s lives in over a decade…As men, we get a bad rep for not showing up…I’m ten toes down and I’m still going thru the BS! I will not sit on my hands this time and allow her to make a mockery of my dedication to my family. The high road has run out of real estate.”
That last line still gives me goosebumps.
Dwyane and Gabrielle Union have become the poster couple for what it means to love and accept your child by any means necessary. And as I’ve said before, they are modelling the way for other Black families who haven’t seen many examples of what that looks like.