Watch: NBA Star Tells Ellen About the 'Leadership' of His Trans Daughter

by Kilian Melloy

EDGE Staff Reporter

Tuesday February 11, 2020

NBA star Dwyane Wade appeared on "Ellen" to tell the openly lesbian host and comedian Ellen DeGeneres about the leadership he says his trans daughter exhibited in coming out, and how he and his wife, Gabrielle Union, are proud parents - and unshakeable allies.

After a clip from a new documentary about Wade's final year in the NBA - "D. Wade: Life Unexpected," a production from ESPN Films and Imagine Documentaries - Ellen thanked Wade for being on the show and told him, "I think it's what every parent should be, is what you're being right now, which is unconditionally loving your child and supporting your child in whoever they are."

Ellen and her host had to stop and wait while the audience spontaneously burst into applause at that point.

"First of all..." Wade told Ellen, "we are proud... we are proud parents of a child in the LGBTQ+ community. And we're proud allies, as well. We take our role and our responsibilities as parents very seriously."

Wade explained that means, in part, being willing to offer their child "the best information that we can" when she faces any issue or has any questions.

Wade then recounted how one day his daughter, Zaya - previously known as Zion - "Came home and said, 'Hey, I want to talk to you guys. I think going forward I'm ready to live my truth.' "

That truth: Wade and Union's child was not a son; she was a daughter.

At that point, Wade said, "now it was our job to... get information, to reach out to every relationship that we have" in order to get "as much information as we can to make sure that we give our child the best opportunity to be her best self."

After a renewed round of applause from the audience, Ellen noted that it must have been a matter of some concern to Wade, as a public figure, to think about how an often-hostile world might respond to his daughter.

Wade agreed, but then explained how he and Union left it to Zaya to take the lead when it comes to knowing who she is.

"I looked at her and said, 'You're our leader. You're our leader, and it's our opportunity to allow you to be a voice.' Right now it's through us because she's twelve years old, but eventually, it will be through her."

Trans people have long been targets for violence - often extreme, and often lethal - by a world that seems to condone hatred and brutality when it's directed at non-cisgender individuals. The Human Rights Campaign, which monitors incidents of lethal anti-trans violence reports that:

In 2019, advocates tracked at least 26 deaths of at least transgender or gender non-conforming people in the U.S. due to fatal violence, the majority of whom were Black transgender women.

The years since the 2016 election have been especially challenging; not only has anti-LGBTQ violence soared, with transwomen - especially trans women of color - taking the brunt of vicious lethal violence, but the current administration has attacked trans people with particular vigor, from denying trans-Americans the chance to serve their nation in uniform to, reportedly, plans by the Trump administration to attempt to define trans people out of existence by legally mandating a person's gender to be that indicated by external genitalia - one common, but not entirely reliable, standard by which a person's gender is determined by others.

But a person's gender can only be definitively reported by that person him- or herself, and gender - as science is now beginning to demonstrate - is at least as much a matter of what is between a person's ears as what is between a person's legs. Supporting the notion that gender is — at least partially — a matter of brain wiring and DNA, a recent paper published in the journal Scientific Reports suggested a deep tie between a suite of 21 genes and trans identity.

Researchers were clued in to look for underling genetic reasons for trans identities because trans people very often know at extremely young ages that their physiological development is at odds with their innate and unchangeable gender identity.

Watch the clip for "Ellen" below.

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Associate Arts Editor and Staff Contributor. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.