I remember the day my dad embraced all of who I was.
It was March of 1997, and I hadn’t been out to him more than six months. He and my mom were visiting me in Los Angeles, and early one morning he knocked on my door and asked to come in. To talk.
He walked into my apartment, my boyfriend sleeping in the next room. He sat on my couch and told me that he didn’t know what me being gay meant, but he loved me no matter what and wanted to find a path forward so our love for one another wouldn’t fade. He teared up, and I did too. He just wanted to love me as his son.
Watching Dwyane Wade talk with Ellen Degeneres about his transgender daughter, Zaya, brought me back to that conversation with my dad on that couch all those years ago. The tears we shed together and the bond we forged that day to never look back and always embrace one another for who we are.
My dad may not have been an NBA star, but he was a macho athlete in his own right, able to hit his elbow on the basketball rim in high school. He gave up his dreams of playing basketball at the highest levels in the early 1970s to be with my mom and me.
He’s my dad.
In that Ellen interview, Wade became America’s Dad. In a time when the rights and privileges of LGBTQ people are under attack from local, state and Federal elected officials, this NBA star with three NBA titles has emerged as a beacon of hope for love and acceptance.
In case you missed it, Wade visited with Ellen Degeneres this week talking openly about his transgender daughter, Zaya, and embracing her with his whole heart and mind.
He spoke to Degeneres about the perspective of his wife, Gabrielle Union, and him:
“We are proud — and when I say proud, we are proud — parents of a child in the LGBTQ+ community, and we are proud allies as well. And we take our roles and our responsibilities as parents very seriously. So when our child comes home with a question, when our child comes home with an issue, when a child comes home with anything, it’s our job as parents to listen, to give them the best information we can, the best feedback that we can, and that doesn’t change because sexuality is not involved in it.”
My dad didn’t know what to do with me telling him I was gay. He was as scared as I was. Yet he met me with love and acceptance.
Wade has done that now — for all the world to see — for his trans daughter, Zaya. Yes, one of the greatest basketball players of all time has opened his loving arms to his TRANSGENDER DAUGHTER. And he wants to be an example for the world in 2020.
Again, he told Ellen:
“Once Zaya came home and said, ‘Hey 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. You are a leader and this is our opportunity to allow you to be a voice.’
“Right now it’s through us because she’s 12 years old, but eventually it will be through her.
Wade told Degeneres his family is working with GLSEN. They want to make sure that every child finds love in the arms of their family, the way I did, the way Zaya is.
I’m so proud of my dad all those years ago for finding his way through the machismo and the homophobia to embrace me, his gay son.
And I could not be more happy to see Wade — the icon of a city and a sports league — equally embrace his trans daughter. I cannot wait to watch the journey of my dad’s love unfold before my eyes.
There is hope — and so much of it — in the world.
Wade’s journey to discovering and accepting his daughter is sure to be part of ESPN’s upcoming 30 For 30, “D. Wade: Life Unexpected,” airing Feb. 23.