WATCH: Gabrielle Union, Dwyane Wade Deliver Emotional Speech Commending Transgender Daughter While Accepting NAACP Image Award

by Xara Aziz
Voiced by Amazon Polly

The 54th annual NAACP Image Awards have come and gone, but the star-studded event is still lingering with many, who say the occasion was trumped by an impassioned speech delivered by Gabrielle Union and Dwyane Wade as they accepted the 2023 President’s Award.

While taking the stage to accept the award, the celebrity couple used their opportunity to advocate for the civil rights of the LGBTQ+ community.  

“As your father, all I’ve wanted to do was get it right,” Dwyane Wade said, referring to his transgender daughter, Zaya. “I’ve sat back and watched how gracefully you’ve taken on public scrutiny. And even though it’s not easy, I watched you walk out of that house every morning. As yourself. I admire how you’ve handled the ignorance in our world. I admire [how you face [that] every day. To say that your village is proud of you is an understatement.”

He then went on to explain how his daughter, Zaya Wade, has helped him to see things from a new perspective.

“As your father, my job isn’t to create a version of myself or direct your future. My role is to be a facilitator to your hopes, your wishes and your dreams,” he added. “Zaya, you’ve made me a better human just simply by being who you were born to be — a baby girl, Zaya Wade. So baby, thank you for showing the world what courage looks like. I’m proud that I was chosen to stand in place as your father and thank you so much NAACP for this incredible honor.”

Gabrielle Union then applauded the NAACP for their efforts in elevating the plight of Black people by leading them for “over a century of relentless challenge, pain, triumph and change.”

“And now stands with us again, at the foot of a very new era of activism, a new era that demands our collective answer to one simple question,” she said.

The Bring It On star continued: “Let’s just name a couple hard truths,” she said. “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. Even as we demand equality at the top of our lungs, we consistently failed to extend our advocacy to protect some of our most vulnerable among us.”

The Nebraska native’s speech came on the same day it was announced that a Los Angeles County judge granted Zaya an official name and gender change. She is now legally known as Zaya Malachi Airamis Wade.

Zaya came out as transgender in 2020 and petitioned to have her name and gender changed ever since. But it has been a bumpy ride to get to this point.

Back in November, Dwayne Wade’s ex-wife and mother to Zaya, Siohvaughn Funches-Wade, requested that a court prevent her ex-husband from allowing her 15-year-old transgender daughter to legally change her name and gender.

On November 1, the mother to Dwayne’s three children submitted an objection stating that her child waits until “the age of majority” to make changes to her identity, according to documents obtained by TODAY.

Days later, Zaya’s father released a statement on Instagram calling allegations made against him “a damn shame.”

“Since this must be the new way of parenting, I guess I have to address these allegations here, which is a damn shame,” he wrote. “While I’m on a life-changing trip in our motherland, Africa, I’ve received a social media post about me forcing our 15-year-old child to be someone she’s not and to do something against her will. These are serious and harmful allegations that have hurt our children.”

He continued: “I’ve given her the opportunity to reach out to Zaya’s teachers, doctors and therapist over the years and even meet her friends, so she could get her own understanding of our child’s needs for her LIFE. She won’t do it! She has not been to a school, recital, graduation, school dance, play date, practice, parent teacher conference etc and Zaya has given her every opportunity to try to get to know her. She won’t do it.”

In court documents, Funches-Wade said “I contend that our child should be given the opportunity to decide for themselves at the age of majority if they want to move forward with changing their name and/or gender.”

She said that the legal situation is a “parental rights issue” and that Dwyane was using his celebrity status to profit off of Zaya’s brand partnerships.

In October, the father of five spoke about his daughter transitioning from a boy to a girl when she was 12 and said he and his wife Gabrielle Union were doing their best to prevent Zaya from seeing hate speech against her on social media.

“We sat down with Zaya about being on social media,” he said on TODAY. “Her, my wife and I, we just talked about, we just want to make sure if she’s going to be on social media, if she’s going to show people some of her life, it’s going to be the people that she wants, that’s in her circle,” he explained at the time. 

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