Zaire Wade, the son of retired NBA star Dwyane Wade, has made it clear that he’s there for his younger sibling Zaya — who, their father revealed, has started using the pronouns “she” and “her.”
“Man, I remember bugging my mom as a kid telling her I wanted a brother so bad,” Zaire, 18, wrote on Instagram Wednesday, next to a photo of the two as young children. “I was the only child looking for company and someone to look after and take care of. I have been blessed to have my best friend, Zaya with me for 12 years.”
Zaire continued, “We did everything together...we fought, we played, we laughed and we cried. But the one thing we never did was leave each other behind... I’ve told you that I would lay my life down to make sure you are ten toes down and happy on this earth. I don’t care what they think Z, you are my best friend and I love you kid, and if it means anything, just know there’s no love lost on this side.”
On Tuesday, Dwyane appeared on Ellen, and the talk show host praised him for showing unconditional love for Zaya. He and his wife, Gabrielle Union, who is a stepmom to Zaire, Zaya and 6-year-old Xavier, also share a three-month-old daughter named Kaavia (born via surrogate) and are raising Dwyane’s nephew Dahveon.
“First of all, me and my wife Gabrielle Union, we are proud — when I say proud, we are proud parents — of a child in the LGBTQ+ community,” Dwyane told Ellen DeGeneres. “And we’re proud allies as well. And we take our roles and our responsibility as parents very seriously.”
Dwyane continued, "So, when Zaya, our 12-year-old, came home — first, Zion… I don't know if everyone knows, originally named Zion, Zion, born as a boy — came home and said, 'Hey, so I want to talk to you guys. I think going forward, I'm ready to live my truth. And I want to be referenced as 'she' and 'her.' I'd love for you guys to call me Zaya.'"
That’s when Dwyane and Union sought advice for how to best guide Zaya to be “her best self.” And Dwyane told her, “You are a leader.” Now, he says, she can have a voice.
That afternoon, Union affirmed her support with an Instagram clip, captioned, “Meet Zaya. She's compassionate, loving, whip smart and we are so proud of her. It’s Ok to listen to, love & respect your children exactly as they are. Love and light good people.”
The video shows a wise Zaya philosophizing as she drives a golf cart, her dad by her side. “[For people who are] afraid they will be judged, I would say don't even think about that,” she says. “Just be true to yourself because… What's the point of being on this Earth if you're going to try and be someone you're not? It's like you're not even living as yourself, which is the dumbest concept to me… Just be true and don't really care what the stereotypical way of being you is."
“Even when people are being mean?” Dwyane interjects. “Even when people are getting hurt because they’re trying to be themselves? Even through that, you still want people to make sure that they live their truth?”
“Yeah,” answers Zaya. “I think — I know — that it can get tough. Definitely. But I think you push through and you be the best you…even through hard times, you gotta push through…it’s worth it…when you reach that point of yourself.”
“Feeling free, feeling like you don’t have to hide,” agrees Dwyane.
“Like, you can look in the mirror and say hi to yourself,” she explains. “Like, nice to meet you....”
Union tweeted, “Huge huge huge THANK YOU to everyone whose dms I slid into, friends, & family who provided information, resources, love & encouragement. We are humble LGBTQ+ allies with A LOT to learn & grateful for all the support. We encourage yall to check us as needed Again, thank you!”
Both Dwyane and Union have weathered criticism of their family. In November, for example, when Dwyane shared a family photo in the wake of Union’s controversial dismissal from America’s Got Talent, the image was marked with negative comments about Zaya wearing supposedly fake nails and a crop top.
“I’ve seen some post-thanksgiving hate on social about my family photo,” tweeted Dwyane. “Stupidity is a part of this world we live in—so i get it. But here’s the thing—I’ve been chosen to lead my family not y’all. So we will continue to be us and support each other with pride, love & a smile!”
The couple also launched a limited-edition T-shirt line printed with the phrase "Please Remain Inclusive & Dedicated 2 Equality” with half of its proceeds donated to LGBTQ-youth advocacy group GLSEN. They also donated $50,000 to the organization.
Read more from Yahoo Entertainment:
Want daily pop culture news delivered to your inbox? Sign up here for Yahoo Entertainment & Lifestyle's newsletter.