Three-time NBA champion guard Dwyane Wade took home the President’s Award at the 54th NAACP Image Awards Saturday alongside his wife, actress Gabrielle Union-Wade. The award, given for recognition of special achievement and distinguished public service was given for the Wades’ work through the Wade Family Foundation.
That public service was extended in an emotional and rousing acceptance speech talking largely about their transgender daughter.
In five-and-a-half-minutes, both of them strengthened their role as symbols of the hopes, fears and fight of affirming parents of transgender youth now under siege in dozens of state legislatures across the United States.
“Zaya, as your father all I’ve wanted to do is get it right,” Wade said publicly to his trans daughter before a packed crowd and a national television audience. “I’ve sat back and watched as you’ve gracefully taken on the public scrutiny and even though it's not easy I’ve watched walk out of that house every morning as yourself.”
These words of this father come forth in stark contrast to some legal changes being sought in a number of states.
“I admire the way you’ve handled the ignorance in our world,” he continued. “You’ve made me a better human by being who you were born to be. Thank you for showing the world what courage looks like.”
Union-Wade then echoed with a message for not just for the audience, but also for a Black community often perceived as unaccepting.
“Will we fight for some or will we fight for all of our people?” She asked.
“Let’s just name a couple of hard truths. First, the intersection of Black rights and the rights of the LGBTQIA, trans and gender non-conforming people continues to be rough — that’s a huge understatement,” she continued. “And second, Black trans people are being targeted, terrorized and hunted in this country.”
Both speaking out amid the tenuous landscape in at the venue in which they did drew a great deal of attention.
This is what love and leadership look like. Thank you!!— Imara Jones (@imarajones) February 26, 2023
Since their daughter Zaya came out in 2020, both Wade and Union have been open to discussing their own process of coming to terms with it, dealing with the press surrounding it, and also sharing the joy of seeing their child grow in her truth with confidence.
They’ve weathered the tensions as well, including the recent conflict with Zaya’s mother, Siohvaughn Funches-Wade, who filed a court action in an attempt to block any name change proceedings. According to Los Angeles County Court documents cited in numerous press reports, Zaya’s name was legally changed last week.
Their remarks at the NAACP Image Awards were pointed and came at the doorstep of the nation’s oldest civil rights organization, who have struggled with past perceptions among Black transgender people that they have been too silent on trans issues.
The effect this could have remains to be seen. It may be a boost to start and restart needed conversations, especially among Black cisgender people and Black LGBTQ people. The voices of affirming Black parents have rarely been heard in this discourse, and the Wades may be a catalyst toward others coming forth.
For many weary parents who’ve been fighting and fretting against the tides, these remarks could be a tonic. These two parents weren’t stars, they were just a mom and dad seeking to protect a child they love.
“We honestly don’t approach this work as activists or leaders, as much as we do this as parents,” Gabrielle Union-Wade said emphatically. “Parents who love our children and will do whatever the hell we can to keep them seen and secure and safe.”