By: Zachary Draves
“I’ve watched my son, from day one, become into who she now eventually has come into, nothing changes with my love, nothing changes with my responsibilities.”
Those are powerful words from Dwayne Wade in defense of o12-year-old son Zion and his son’s LGBTQ identity and using gender neutral pronouns in the process.
He made his pronouncement loud and clear on the sports podcast “All in Smoke” on Showtime.
This comes in light of the hateful backlash that he, the family, and his son has received on social media.
Over Thanksgiving, the family received negative messages after they posted a picture of the family together and Zion was wearing a crop top and fingernails.
In response, DWade stepped up and supported his son.
“Stupidity,” he said, 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!”
DWade and along with his superstar wife, actress and activist Gabrielle Union have been active on social media, with their resources, and in the public sphere to show support for Zion and the LGBTQ community.
In April, the family marched in the Miami Beach Pride Parade.
In September, they contributed $50,000 to GLSEN, an organization that advocates for the rights and well-being of LGBTQ youth.
In addition, they sold $35 pride T-shirts through social media.
Their actions have garnered tremendous support from many especially in the African American LGBTQ community including actor, singer, and star of the hit FX series Pose Billy Porter and trans actress and advocate Angelica Ross, also a star on Pose.
The fact that DWade and Gabrielle are unapologetic in their support of Zion comes at a very crucial time when black LGBTQ sisters and brothers, especially black LGBTQ youth are struggling to survive.
According to recent studies, there has been a rise in suicides among black youth, especially among LGBTQ youth in the community.
There have been a few high profile cases over the last few years that have sparked many advocates and the Congressional Black Caucus to develop comprehensive measures and strategies to curb this crisis.
Jamel Myles, Nigel Shelby, and Gabriel Taye were young boys ages 8-15 who took their lives as a result of homophobic bullying and harassment at their schools that garnered public attention.
Much more information can be found in an op-ed written by David J. Johns in Shandaland, a media company founded by famed director Shonda Rhimes
David J. Johns is the Executive Director of the National Black Justice Coalition, an advocacy organization committed to fighting for the rights and dignity of the black LGBTQ community. http://nbjc.org/
There is also an ongoing crisis where black transgender women are being murdered at an alarming rate.
According to the Human Rights Campaign, 22 black trans women have been killed this year alone, with Yahira Nesby, a 33-year-old woman from Brooklyn being the most recent case.
When looking at these numbers and when factoring that rights and protections are systematically being rolled back at the federal level, state and local legislators are introducing anti-LGBTQ bills, and hate crimes are rising, this is a matter of life and death for so many.
That is why when you have Dwayne Wade, a former NBA all-star and champion, using his tremendous platform to articulate his deep love and affection for his child sets a model for other parents and especially other men to follow.
That goes to the heart of how society and culture are starting to open doors for other more diverse and fluid representations of masculinity.
For too long, men have been socialized to believe that the only way to be a man is to put on a front of hyper strength, invulnerability, toughness, and aggression as a means to be seen as valid or worthy acceptance from a male dominated society.
Being seen as “feminine”, “weak”, “soft”, and LGBTQ have been deemed unacceptable for men and boys in the eyes of the broader culture.
Parents have been conditioned to believe that having a son who is LGBTQ, same gender loving, or gender non-conforming is “problematic” and that there needs to be policing of their son’s behaviors, actions, and interests so that he doesn’t “become soft”.
There have also been countless stories where LGBTQ youth have been kicked out by their families, forced into homelessness and despair, and rendered invisible.
What DWade is doing to counter that is helping to create a safe, loving, and protective environment for Zion as he and Gabrielle do for his other children.
Studies have also shown that when somebody knows someone who is LGBTQ, it radically changes their worldview.
Dwayne Wade is setting a positive example for fatherhood and manhood.
His and Zion’s visibility can potentially help to spark the greater change that is greatly needed at this time.
That along with the success of shows like Pose acknowledges the diversity of the African American LGBTQ community.
In end, showcasing what makes a family, unconditional love.
If you are a young person who identifies as LGBTQ and if you are feeling suicidal or in need of a safe and judgment-free zone to talk, please call The Trevor Project at 1-866-488-7386.
Trained counselors are waiting 24/7 to support you.