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Amid anti-trans bills targeting youth, Dwyane Wade takes a stand for his daughter

Gabrielle Union and Dwyane Wade at the Met Gala on Monday.
Jamie McCarthy
Getty Images
Gabrielle Union and Dwyane Wade at the Met Gala on Monday.

The father and NBA legend has been outwardly supportive of his daughter Zaya as culture wars surrounding trans rights have continued to swell.

Who is he? Dwyane Wade is a retired NBA player, who starred for the Miami Heat and won 3 NBA championships there.

  • Wade is also the father of 15-year-old Zaya Wade, a transgender model and activist who came out in 2020, with the vocal support of Dwyane and his wife Gabrielle Union. 
  • Wade sold his Miami mansion in 2021 and made a move across the country to California, in part because, as Dwyane told Showtime's Headliners recently, he felt that his family "would not be accepted" in Florida. 
  • What's the big deal? Dwyane Wade has been vocal in his support of trans rights, and calling out Florida lawmakers who have pushed anti-trans legislation.

  • At the Met Gala on Monday, Wade told a Variety reporter he was "on the side of acceptance."
  • The Florida legislature is poised to shore up restrictions put forward by the state Board of Medicine that would ban gender-affirming care for minors.
  • At the end of April, a bill that would restrict drag performances and pride celebrations, and would revoke the liquor and food licenses from venues that are accused of allowing children to witness "lewd" performances, was sent to Gov. Ron DeSantis. The bill has yet to be signed.
  • This is in addition to other pieces of legislation, like DeSantis' now notorious so-called "Don't Say Gay" bill, as well as bills restricting access to restrooms for transgender students and individuals. 
  • LGBTQ+ activists are sounding the alarm for the transition-related legislation that targets minors, saying it's a slippery slope and transgender adults could also be impacted. That much is already happening: part of one bill, Senate Bill 254, forbids any public funds to be used for providing gender-affirming care to any transgender individuals, including adults, according to the Human Rights Campaign

  • Want more on LGBTQ+ rights in the U.S.? Listen to Consider This to hear three trans Americans reflect on the current state of trans rights.

    What are people saying?

    Wade on the Met Gala red carpet, when asked what is his message to DeSantis:

    I don't know him. But I do know men lie, women lie, but numbers don't. I do know that when our children feel accepted ... from their parents, from the world, it lowers the death rate. 

    Suicide is high in the trans community. It's high in youth, and so I'm going to step on the side of acceptance and I'm not going to even go on the other side. I'm going to focus on acceptance. Let's make sure our kids have an opportunity to live this life that we all get to live. 

    Wade on Headliners, on the reasons why he decided to leave Florida:

    I had to make decisions for my family, not just personal, individual decisions. I mean, obviously, the tax [situation] is great. Having Wade County is great. But my family would not be accepted or feel comfortable there. And so that's one of the reasons why I don't live there.

    Kara Gross, legislative director and senior policy counsel of the ACLU of Florida:

    It is shameful that our Florida Legislature continues to pass dangerous bills designed to silence, harm, and erase trans people in Florida. These bills directly threaten transgender Floridians' fundamental human rights and safety. The Florida Legislature's insistence on targeting trans people is bizarre, unnecessary, unconstitutional, and extremely dangerous.  

    So, what now?

  • In the past few weeks, DeSantis was able to successfully expand the "Don't Say Gay"law by implementing arule change, banning classroom instruction about sexual identity and orientation to all grades.   
  • On Sunday, Wade attended a basketball game at Madison Square Garden, and faced transphobic jeers directed at Zaya as he exited the arena. 
  • Learn more:

  • Montana is the latest state to ban gender-affirming care for trans minors
  • Disney sues Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, claiming 'government retaliation'
  • The anti-drag bills sweeping the U.S. are straight from history's playbook
  • Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

    Corrected: May 3, 2023 at 9:00 PM PDT
    A previous version of this article referred to Gabrielle Union as Dwyane Wade's partner. She is his wife.
    Manuela López Restrepo is a producer and writer at All Things Considered. She's been at NPR since graduating from The University of Maryland, and has worked at shows like Morning Edition and It's Been A Minute. She lives in Brooklyn with her cat Martin.