Gabrielle Union and Dwyane Wade Open Up About Their Trans Journey with Daughter Zaya, 13
"We were all bawling!" recalls Union, 48. "She was so amazing and dynamic, and to be able to hold your own with Michelle Obama, it was so impactful."
Zaya has been impactful in more ways than one since she came out as transgender last year, a positive voice for youths living their authentic lives.
"When I look at Zaya, I get hope," says Wade, 39, who is also dad to son Xavier, 7 (whom he shares with an ex, son Zaire (who, like Zaya, is Wade's from a previous relationship) and Dahveon, Wade's nephew. (Union and Wade also have 2-year-old daughter Kaavia James, who inspired their upcoming children's book, Shady Baby, available May 18). "Because I'm like, okay, we raised [our kids] to be authentic."
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Zaya was just 3 years old when Wade and Union say they began discussing "possibilities" within her future. And "we decided to approach it a different way," says Wade. "I come from a locker room of a macho, male-dominant sport. But I started learning and I started to watch her. And from then on we started having more conversations."
Eventually, when Zaya came out as trans, first to her family before the world, "I didn't have many resources, so I just reached out to everyone I knew from social media," recalls Union. "Everyone responded with love, resources and information."
But Union says they were realistic about the process — and a learning curve.
"We weren't coming into it like it's got to be our way," she says. "We're going to mess up. We're going to say the wrong thing. But we had to learn and be led."
Listen to more of PEOPLE's cover story interview with Gabrielle Union and Dwyane Wade below on our daily podcast PEOPLE Every Day!
Today, the couple, both vocal activists in the LGBTQ+ community through their Wade Family Foundation, are unequivocal about what is acceptable and what they'll never tolerate when it comes to the safety of their family members.
Watch the full episode of People Cover Story: Gabrielle Union and Dwyane Wade on PeopleTV.com or on the PeopleTV app.
"Our home will never be a safe space for bigots," says Union. "I look at problematic language as violence and I'm never going to expose anyone I love to violence, whether that be verbal, physical, emotional or spiritual. Jerks exist in every area of life. And we function from a place of truth in our household. But if you come at us, oh, be very prepared."
Ultimately, Wade and Union, wed since 2014, lead with love. "We want to make sure [our kids] feel strong and supported and free to be exactly who they are," says Union.
Adds Wade: "What I love about our home is that everybody is unique. And we allow their uniqueness to shine."
For more from Gabrielle Union and Dwyane Wade, pick up the latest issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday.
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