A clip of former NBA star Dwyane Wade talking to Ellen DeGeneres is making the social media rounds this week as a heartwarming example of how every parent should react if their child tells them they identify as LGBTQ+.
When Wade’s child, who now goes by the name Zaya and uses she/her pronouns, approached her dad and his wife, actress Gabrielle Union, about the change, they did three things that can serve as a simple but effective blueprint for the rest of us.
As parents, we’ve got a lot of responsibilities, big and small. But chief among them is to be the best listener our kids could possibly have. Wade explains to DeGeneres:
We take our roles and our responsibilities as parents very seriously. So when our child comes home with a question, when our child comes home with an issue, when our child comes home with anything, it’s our job as parents to listen to that to give them the best information that we can, the best feedback that we can, and that doesn’t change because sexuality [or gender] is now involved in it.
Give unconditional support
If your child identifies as LGBTQ+, it’s an opportunity to not just be supportive of them as individuals, but also to offer support and advocacy for the entire community. As public figures, in particular, Wade’s family seems to already understand the important role they can play in raising awareness and acceptance for the wider LGBTQ+ community. He says:
Once Zaya came home and said, “Hey, call me Zaya, and I’m ready to take this on,” I looked at her and said, “You are a leader. You are a leader, and it’s our opportunity to allow you to be a voice.” Right now, it’s through us because she’s 12 years old, but eventually it will be through her.
Arm yourself with information
You’ve listened, you’ve supported, and now it’s time to educate yourself about what this identity means for your child and their future. Wade says he and his wife are getting information wherever they can find it, but especially from those within the community themselves:
Now it’s our job to ... go out and get information, to reach out to every relationship that we have. My wife reached out to everybody on the cast of [LGBTQ+ show] Pose. We’re just trying to figure out as much information as we can to make sure that we give our child the best opportunity to be her best self.
DeGeneres also mentioned that Wade and his family are working closely with the GLSEN organisation, which aims to create affirming learning environments for LGBTQ youth and can be a good resource for these children and their loved ones.