Gabrielle Union and Dwayne Wade have become the measurement of success for young black creatives and athletes everywhere. Union, an actress and author, and Wade, three-time NBA champion have made recent headlines, not for a new movie or another NBA win, but for their acceptance of their 12-year-old daughter, Zaya, and her new sense of self. In a recent interview on The Ellen DeGeneres Show, Wade shared that they “are proud parents of a child in the LGBTQ+ community…and [we] are proud allies as well.” Zaya was born in a male body and was living life as a boy until recently communicating to her parents that she would like to live her truth as a girl, using she/her pronouns. Wade said, “Once Zaya came home and said ‘call me Zaya’ and was ready to take this on, I looked at her and said you are a leader, and this is our opportunity to allow you to be a voice.” This powerful statement left many inspired and applauding his commitment to respecting his child in her truest form.
Viewers were then able to learn more about Zaya and her new outward identity as a girl in a video posted to Twitter by Union following the Ellen interview. In the video captioned, Meet Zaya. She’s compassionate, loving, whip smart, and we are so proud of her. It’s OK to listen to, love, and respect your child exactly for who they are, Zaya expresses her sense of purpose to being herself and living her truth as a girl. She explains, “Just be true to yourself. What’s the point of being on this Earth if you’re going to try to be someone you’re not? It’s like you’re not even living as yourself.” In the short clip she encourages viewers to “be the best you,” pushing past outdated viewpoints to be able to “look in the mirror and able to say hi to yourself.” The powerful monologue presented by a mature and well-articulated pre-teen with a sense of wisdom beyond her age, is a lesson on self-worth, acceptance and what that should mean for the individual navigating a sometimes not-so-accepting society.
Meet Zaya. She's compassionate, loving, whip smart and we are so proud of her. It’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
In an ideal world, we would all listen, understand and carry on just as we would any other day. But in the age of keyboard warriors and Twitter haters, everyone from the general public to well-known celebrities and public figures seem to have an opinion on the gender identity and expression of a 12-year-old.
Critics are upset with the parenting style of Union and Wade, with the general questions surrounding why they are allowing a child to change identity. Those concerns are centered around the permanence of the decision at a young age, and naysayers adding disgruntlement toward the idea of a gender reassignment surgery.
Supporters of Zaya were quick to defend the pre-teen, often times with explanations on how misgendering a person and having these types of opinions are rooted in transphobia, with views that are out of touch with the reality of what it means to hide an identity for the sake of adhering to social standards. Some going further to recall their own childhood, detailing their experiences as young children who absolutely knew their gendered identity. How old are we when we develop the consciousness which surrounds the makeup of our identity? Should a couple have children if they are not ready for their child to be a member of the LGBTQ+ community? What are the ethics surrounding the forceful adherence of a child to a particular gender? Questions like these linger as the public calls to question what it means to be a parent with obligations to a child in the trans community.
In all cases, being a parent means loving your child unconditionally and supporting them as they live their truth, whether that is in everyday life or championing for their rights as human beings. The ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment in Virginia was a huge step in the right direction for advocates of LGBTQ+ rights. Virginia was the 38th state in the United States to do so, passing the necessary threshold of three-fourths ratification by states in order to move forward to the next step of amending the Constitution. Essentially, amending the Constitution would give federal civil rights protections against sex based discrimination for women, queer, trans, and gender non-conforming people. In Virginia, this is part of the push for a series of anti-discriminatory legislation as the focus of this legislative session. A bill titled the “Virginia Values Act” recently passed in Virginia’s House of Delegates, with an amended version being passed in the Senate. It is now before Governor Ralph Northam for his signature. According to Virginia’s Legislative Information System, the bill would prohibit discrimination in places of public accommodation, employment, credit and housing based on sexual orientation and gender identity. If signed and added into Virginia’s Anti-Discrimination law, this would be a major victory for the LGBTQ+ community and its allies, making Virginia the first southern state to enact such legislation. The bill would be the first step in protecting people such as Zaya, whose main concern is living truth as a human being and citizen of this country.