"She doesn’t ask permission to exist. It’s wildly inspiring," Gabrielle Union said of 13-year-old stepdaughter Zaya, who came out as transgender earlier this year

By Claudia Harmata
September 23, 2020 10:57 AM
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It's no secret that Dwyane Wade and Gabrielle Union are forces to be reckoned with, in sports and in Hollywood, and the couple credits their children as their inspiration.

While being profiled for the 2020 TIME 100, Time magazine’s list of the world’s 100 most influential people, the former NBA star, 38, and actress, 47, opened up about encouraging their children to live freely.

"Freedom exists in so many different forms, but we are so blessed to be in a household where we have free children. We have a daughter that is almost 2, that the world has seen, is bound to nothing but whatever is in her heart and on her soul at the moment," Union said of her and Wade's daughter Kaavia James. "And it’s beautiful to watch truly free children." 

"We have another daughter who is 13, who has the freedom to be exactly who she is, who she was born to be, to be her most authentic self," the Bring It On star shared of her 13-year-old stepdaughter, Zaya. "She doesn’t ask permission to exist. It’s wildly inspiring." 

Gabrielle Union and Dwyane Wade with Zaya and Kaavia
| Credit: Gabrielle Union/Instagram

"To echo my wife, I’m inspired by our kids," Wade chimed in. "The way they look at us, the way they look to us, for leadership and guidance, for their moments of bravery."

Earlier this year, Zaya came out to the world as transgender with the love and support of both Union and Wade. (When the couple wed in 2014, Union became a stepmother to Wade's three children: 18-year-old Zaire Blessing Dwyane, Xavier Zechariah, 6, and Zaya. Wade is also the guardian of nephew Dahveon Morris, 18.)

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Speaking to Good Morning America on Wednesday about being honored in the TIME 100, Union and Wade admitted it has been strange for them to receive praise for simply loving their daughter.

"We're still kind of getting used to being recognized for doing things that have really kind of come naturally like loving your kids as they are," Union said. "It's just weird to get credit for that."

She added that some people "needed to see other families just love their children out loud, unapologetically."

The couple also says Zaya helped them see "life differently" while on this journey with her for equality and acceptance.

"She's helped us see, you know, life differently, and I'm thankful for her," Wade said. "She’s allowed me to be informed where I can help, you know, in the same process. Right now it's a lot of people in the Black community that that will not accept someone of transgender, you know, and look at them as different and not worthy. Not worthy of life."

The retired Miami Heat player admitted that he is also still learning how to be the best parent and ally, explaining, "I think I'm finding my voice, continuing to let everyone know that I am not perfect. I do not know everything, but I lead with my heart. I lead with love."