Zaya Wade, the daughter of Gabrielle Union and her husband, Dwyane Wade, has spoken out about the backlash she received after she came out as transgender.
In a campaign video for the “Dove Self-Esteem Project,” the 14-year-old teen talked to PEOPLE about some of the negative remarks she
“As a trans person, once I came out, there was a lot of hateful comments about how I should grow my hair out long or fit into a certain version of femininity, even though that’s not true at all,” she says while sitting alongside Union. “That kind of advice is just trying to break you, but don’t let it.”
“Her telling me that not everyone in the world and in the media is going to be truthful about what you look like,” Zaya added. “I don’t have to believe everything they say. The only thing I have to believe is what I feel and what beauty means to me,” she continues. “I think focusing on inner beauty is the most important.”
Statistics show that transgender youth are far more likely to experience depression, anxiety and suicidal thought than their peers. These numbers are significantly lower in children who are allowed to transition.
Union chimed in, adding that she’s made it her point to teach the many shades of beauty.
“You can be a ‘stunner’ or ‘classically beautiful person’ but if your soul is rotten, you are not very beautiful at all,” Union told the publication. “We try to stress character, compassion, love, acceptance and joy. That hopefully radiates from the inside out. When it comes to how she moves through the world, we try to stress there is no one way to be a woman or to be feminine.”
“There are a billion ways to exist because there are billions of people and each person has the ability to decide for themselves how they want to exist in the world and how they want to move through the world,” the actress adds. “We talk to her about resisting anti-Blackness and not centering Eurocentric beauty ideals.”