Father’s Day was this past Sunday, so we at Sports Are From Venus have decided to honor our inaugural Sports Are From Venus Father of the Year. The SAFV Father of the Year is a professional athlete, and father, who uses his platform to create and hold space for women in sports, and wider society. This year, retired NBA superstar Dwyane Wade is our Father of the Year for the public example he has set in his response to his daughter, Zaya’s coming out as transgender.
While Zaya Wade has known she wasn’t straight or cisgender since she was 3 years old, her gender has only been made public over the last few months, following an appearance by her father on The Ellen DeGeneres Show in February. “Zaya started doing more research. She was the one who sat down with us as a family and said, ‘Hey, I don’t think I’m gay,’” Wade remembered, “And she went down the list and said, ‘This is how I identify myself. This is my gender identity. I identify myself as a young lady.”
It should not be exceptional for a cisgender, straight father to love, accept, encourage and listen to his transgender daughter. Every father of transgender child should be like Dwyane Wade. That isn’t the case. But Dwyane Wade is setting a positive example for parents of trans kids, helping to usher in a world where being a good father is not worthy of writing a blog about.
What makes Dwyane Wade a good father, and a good ally, to his daughter is very simple: He listens, and he learns. “We’re just trying to figure out as much information as we can to make sure that we give our child the best opportunity to be, you know, her best self,” said Wade during his February Ellen interview. When Zaya expressed her gender to her father, he didn’t challenge her, or deign to claim he knew her better than she knew herself. He listened to her, respecting the self-reflection and research his daughter had done. Dwyane Wade is allowing his daughter to lead the way on educating him, while doing his own research and reading in order to prevent the full burden of educating two adults to fall on his 13 year old. Too many parents of trans children fail to simply accept that they need to listen, and do real, concrete intellectual and emotional labor to understand and support their child. Dwyane Wade does this work, and sets a path for others to follow in doing it.
The former Miami Heat superstart takes things a step further by helping Zaya find the confidence to celebrate herself publicly, by celebrating her right alongside her. Dwyane Wade has on numerous occasions celebrated his daughter’s confidence, maturity, and intelligence–celebrating Zaya emerging as “one of the young faces and voices of the LGBTQ+ community” in an Instagram post following her first red carpet appearance since beginning her public transition. Zaya wore a beautiful, colorful waistcoat in green with well-tailored black pants with a green sash with a silver chain necklace. Dwyane Wade and Gabrielle Union wore complementary outfits to this red carpet, both a powerful aesthetic image and a statement of solidarity with Zaya as she begins to use fashion to craft her ideal gender presentation, and ideal public image. In a way, the integration of Zaya’s color scheme into Wade’s outfit almost seems symbolic of the qualities that make me appreciate Wade as a father of a trans child: He’s
listened to his daughter, internalized her identity, and has celebrated it where everyone can see it–literally wearing it on his own sleeve.
Image Source: AP Images