The former NBA player, 41, and the Bring It On actress, 50, delivered a speech that honored Wade’s daughter Zaya, 15, who publicly came out as transgender in 2020. The teen was granted a legal name and gender change on Friday, February 24.
“We stand up here today as two people who have worked tirelessly to have resources and access,” Wade told the crowd while accepting the award, which recognizes special achievement and distinguished public service. “As two people willing to use our microphones for what we believe and what other families are going through. I’m intentional when I use my platform. I recognize what I have been given, and it is my job to uplift the voices of others and share my access and resources.”
The former athlete then directed his words to Zaya, whom he shares with ex-wife Siohvaughn Funches. “Zaya, as your father, all I’ve wanted to do was get it right,” the Chicago native said. “I’ve sat back and watched how gracefully you have taken on the public scrutiny. And even though it’s not easy, I watched you walk out of the house every morning as yourself. I admire how you handle the ignorance in our world … that you face every day. To say that your village is proud of you is an understatement.”
When Union took the mic, she encouraged the audience to stand up for the rights of Black LGTBQ+ people around the world. “First, the intersection of Black rights and the rights of the LGBTQIA, trans and gender-nonconforming people continues to be rough — that’s a huge understatement,” the Being Mary Jane alum said. “Even as we demand equality at the top of our lungs, we consistently fail to extend our advocacy to protect some of our most vulnerable among us. And second, Black trans people are being targeted, terrorized and hunted in this country, every day, everywhere. And there’s rarely a whisper about it.”
The She’s All That actress added that she and Wade approach their activism as parents first. “This is a conversation worth having in ways that actually build bridges; that don’t fan the flame of hatred or division; that don’t enable lawmakers or justice systems to look the other way when Black trans people are under attack; that don’t drive more young people to hate themselves or harm themselves; that don’t cost people their lives,” she continued. “So, we are humbled, and we are hopeful for the future. I’m hopeful, we are hopeful that we may witness a real shift in the fight for justice, the moment, the movement makes room for everyone.”
Wade and Funches, 41 — who split in 2007 — also share son Zaire, 21. The Olympic gold medalist shares son Xavier, 9, with Aja Metoyer and daughter Kaavia James, 4, with Union.
Last year, Funches filed legal paperwork in an attempt to block Zaya’s name and gender change, claiming that her ex-husband was “pressuring” the teen to move forward with her transition. Wade quickly hit back at his ex-wife’s “serious and harmful” allegations, saying that he only ever wanted to support Zaya.
“While none of us are surprised by Siohvaughn’s attempt to fight Zaya’s identity and her unwavering attempt to drag my name through the mud, I’m very disappointed that she continuously find ways of centering herself and HER needs, without regard to her children,” the former Miami Heat guard wrote via Instagram in November 2022. “This is a kid who has maintained a 4.0 GPA in honors classes while navigating all this unsolicited and harmful attention and debates about her gender and sexuality from those who are committed to not listening to her, much less even knowing her.”