Dwyane Wade Opens Up About How Zaya Helped Him Grow: I Was 'Closed-Minded on a Lot of Things'

"I've learned to keep my mind open, keep my eyes open, keep my heart open, keep my thoughts open," Dwyane Wade said

Dwyane Wade and Gabrielle Union
Photo: Dwyane Wade/Instagram

As a parent, you never stop learning and growing — just ask Dwyane Wade.

The former Miami Heat superstar, 38, is continuing to speak out about how much his 12-year-old child Zaya has changed him as a dad.

“For me, it’s always about being able to adapt and being able to learn, and always being able to grow,” Wade told Entertainment Tonight on Thursday in Chicago at the premiere of his ESPN documentary D. Wade: Life Unexpected. “I think coming from the inner city of Chicago early on, I was kind of closed-minded on a lot of things.”

The athlete added, “And I’ve been with my wife [Gabrielle Union], traveling the world, meeting people, going to different places, I’ve learned to keep my mind open, keep my eyes open, keep my heart open, keep my thoughts open. That’s what I’ve been trying to do as I’m growing into the man that I’ve always dreamed of becoming.”

While they’re “not the only family who deals with” the topics they’ve spoken openly about in the past (including miscarriage, surrogacy to welcome their now-15-month-old daughter Kaavia James and more), Wade said that he and his actress wife, 47, are in a unique position to leverage “the platform that God gave” them, to lead by example.

“We’re not the only family that’s had to deal with gender expression, gender identity, sexuality, with their child,” he told ET. “We understand the position we’ve been put in, especially in our community, and even though it’s not always a popular thing to speak out on issues that people are uncomfortable with or not as educated on, but this is the platform that God gave me and my family. So we use it.”

Never miss a story — sign up for PEOPLE’s free daily newsletter to stay up-to-date on the best of what PEOPLE has to offer, from juicy celebrity news to compelling human interest stories.

Dwyane Wade and Gabrielle Union
Dwyane Wade/Instagram
Michael Rubin's Fanatics Super Bowl Party - Arrivals
Kevin Mazur/Getty Images

RELATED GALLERY: Dwyane Wade Proudly Opens Up About Watching His ‘Son Become Into Who She Now’ Is

During Tuesday’s episode of The Ellen DeGeneres Show, Wade recalled the moment Zaya came out to him and Union, and also said that he hopes to give her “the best opportunity to be her best self.”

Wade — who, aside from Zaya and Kaavia, is dad to sons Xavier Zechariah, 6, and Zaire Blessing Dwyane, as well as the guardian of nephew Dahveon Morris, 18 — shared that he was proud of Zaya and her role as “a leader.”

“Once Zaya came home and said, ‘I want you to call me Zaya and I’m ready to take on this,’ I looked at her and said, ‘You are a leader. And this is our opportunity to allow you to be a voice,’ ” Wade said to Ellen DeGeneres. “Right now it’s through us, because she’s 12 years old, but eventually it will be through her.”

The same day, L.A.’s Finest actress Union shared a series of heartwarming tweets, raving over Zaya and introducing her with a video of the preteen stressing the importance of being “true to yourself.”

RELATED VIDEO: Gabrielle Union Introduces 12-Year-Old Zaya to the World: “She’s Whip Smart and We Are So Proud”

Before revealing that his child had requested she/her pronouns and to be called Zaya over her birth name Zion, Wade previously opened up about how he had to focus on educating himself to be the best supporter.

“I had to look myself in the mirror when my son at the time was 3 years old. And me and my wife are having conversations about [noticing] he wasn’t on the boy vibe that Zaire was on,” the father said during a December conversation for Showtime’s All the Smoke podcast.

In addition to having open conversations, Wade said it was also critical to look inside oneself and examine possible reactions or prejudices: “I had to look myself in the mirror and say, ‘What if your son come home and tell you he’s gay? What are you going to do? How are you going to be? How are you going to act?’ ”

The star continued, “It ain’t about him. He knows who he is. It’s about you. Who are you? All these people that’s out there saying these things, look at yourself. Understand that you’re the one that’s got the issues. You’re the one that’s got the problem.”

Related Articles