I knew that Dwyane Wade’s support of his daughter Zaya would have Black folks in their feelings. The influence of the church, general homophobia, and sexism dictate that people would have strong feelings about a Black man embracing his child’s decision to be herself.
So when rapper Lil Boosie came forward with his opinion I was neither surprised nor phased. In fact, I didn’t even play the video to see what he had to say. Because honestly, Lil Boosie doesn’t have the range for this type of conversation. And given his own despicable parenting choices, I wasn’t trying to hear it.
Then I saw a video from “Empire” star Serayah McNeil lending her thoughts to the conversation.
“I think people are feeling this is more about the age of the child. It’s not only his kid, there are plenty of kids and their parents are letting them do this. I think that everything is just a little bit too premature. I don’t care if you’re a boy or a girl, for me, there’s other things we need to be worried about at this time. What do you want to do in your life? Do you want to be in any activities? Let’s let you get through this. Let’s not jump to a life-changing decision that will never be undone. That’s serious, that’s really really serious. I’m only speaking because there are plenty of people in middle school and high school that experiment, do all these things and then Boom! ‘I thought they was…’ No, that was something that they were going through. They were a child. Your brain is still developing. I’m accepting of my child being gay. That’s okay. But there’s so many other things around that in society right now that is pressuring children and parents to be a certain way. And let’s just take back the reins, ok? It’s okay but, right now we’re just not going to go there right now. Let’s wait until you get a little bit older and make sure this is exactly what you want to be and do for the rest of your life. That’s all I’m saying. Okay, bye.”
I was prepared to ignore her thoughts on the matter as well. But because I believe she spoke from a place of genuine concern—and I’ve seen so many Black folk echo her sentiments, I feel the need to explain why Serayah’s comments were ignorant.
I’m already tired but here we go.
I think, first and foremost, people need to understand that there is a difference between gender identity and sexuality.
I don’t know if people are actively listening to Dwyane Wade in their eagerness to express their disapproval in him accepting his child.
As he told Robin Roberts, “She [Zaya] is the one who sat down with us as a family and said, ‘Hey, I don’t think I’m gay.’ And she went down the list. ‘This is how I identify myself, this is my gender identity, I identify myself as a young lady. I think I’m a straight trans because I like boys.’
So we have to have a base level conversation about whether or not we’re truly accepting of trans people, their words and their experience.
I’m a cisgender woman so I won’t pretend that I know and understand everything about trans people. But in my cis identity and privilege, I feel it necessary to speak to other cis people who need to be educated.
Being trans means not identifying with the gender you were assigned in utero or at birth.
Truth be told, there are people who don’t believe the trans identity is “right” or moral. They’re entitled to their opinion. But in their close-mindedness, they should remain silent. Because if you don’t acknowledge or accept someone’s humanity and right to identify as they choose, then you shouldn’t speak on them, especially since the person in question is a child. But more on that later.
So let’s talk about the trans identity first. The crux of Serayah’s argument seems to be rooted in age. But let me ask all of y’all how old were you when you knew you were a boy or girl? For many of us, it’s not something we remember because it’s always been who we are, how we identified, and in the case of cis folks, how the world identified us. For trans people, all of that is also true, with the exception of the last part. They know who they are. Been knew. It’s the world that does not.
So to call something like gender identity a phase is incorrect. Toddlers are able to express their gender identity. And Zaya, at 12, is far from a toddler. She knows who she is.
Serayah stated that this is a permanent change. That perhaps was the most confusing, and to be honest, the most troubling part of her commentary.
The Wades haven’t spoken about any surgical procedures. They haven’t mentioned gender reassignment surgery or even any hormonal supplements. (If they did that would be their decision.) But thankfully, they haven’t decided to share their child’s medical information—unlike another celebrity father. And I applaud them for that. Because for as much as Zaya’s story will inspire other trans children and their parents, she has a right to her privacy.
To speak about a permanent change means that y’all are worried about hormonal or physical changes. I would urge us all to remember that Zaya is a child. Not only are her potential hormonal treatments or medical procedures none of our business, it’s disturbing that people are not only thinking about this but that they’re willing to comment on these “hypothetical” permanent changes on the internet. It’s inappropriate. And again, as the people who are not parenting this child, it is none of your concern.
There’s also the question of sexuality. Again, this calls for an understanding of tran identity. If you believe that Zaya is who she says she is, then she is, as it stands right now, a straight trans girl. Meaning she identifies as a girl and is attracted to boys, the opposite gender. If you don’t understand, haven’t researched or refuse to accept trans identity as valid, this point will likely escape you. And if that is the case. Ignorance is your choice. But then you should not be running to your keyboards or camera phones to speak on topics of which you have limited knowledge.
Serayah is right that there are some people who adopt sexualities that no longer fit them when they’re older. But more than a phase, it just speaks to the fact that sexuality is fluid. It’s not fixed or stagnant. We exist on a spectrum and not polar opposites. And some of us do change over time.
I think this is what Serayah was truly concerned about. And again because I don’t believe she was being hateful or malicious—just ignorant— I feel the need to explain.
While highly unlikely, and not typical of trans experience, Zaya could change her mind. There is a slim possibility that she might expand her identity or realize what she’s chosen for herself now doesn’t fit later. It is unlikely but if that is the case, what does it hurt to have supportive parents along the journey?
What harm does it do to know that no matter how you identify your gender and sexuality, your parents will support you? On the other hand, if Zaya felt that she lived in a household where she wouldn’t be heard, wouldn’t be respected and supported, then there are very real psychological ramifications, lack of self-worth being chief among them.
With trans people of color facing disproportionately higher rates of attempted suicide, poverty and unemployment, I would assume this is not a risk the Wades are willing to take.
Honestly, ideas I’m seeing expressed about Zaya and other LGBTQ+ youth speaks to the fact that so many of our Black parents prioritized their own ignorance, religion, comfortability and fear over their child’s well-being. If anything, our community’s willingness to sacrifice our children for our own comfortability is the behavior on which we need to pull back the reins.