model behavior

Zaya Wade shares her own message of trans empowerment: “We aren’t going anywhere”

Zaya Wade models for Miu Miu in a cropped jean jacket and mini-skirt.
Photo via Getty Images

We hear a lot about empowerment and advocacy of the trans community from Gabrielle Union and Dwyane Wade, but it’s not often we get to hear directly from their daughter, Zaya.

We’re not complaining — at 15, she needs to be protecting her peace as much as she wants — but it makes it all the more special when we get word from the Gen Z activist herself.

In a new interview with Dazed, Zaya explores a whole host of topics: her dream prom dress designer, her first wig and heels, her Sweet 16 goals. Of course, among the main points visited are those on her experience as a trans girl in our current climate.

“There are some highs and some lows,” she says. “I mean, a lot of attention equals a lot more hate, a lot of transphobia, and [there is] a lot of pressure on me, but I’m also able to reach more people.”

“The positives of having such an inclusive platform completely outweigh all of the negativity online, which my support system has enabled me to filter out. It has allowed me to let in the positivity and distribute it to all of the trans people in the world who need a voice and give them a platform to get inspired to live with themselves without being afraid.”

Her support system includes her superstar parents, who keep her social media respectably monitored and keep comments filtered.

Even in this moment of immense anti-trans legislation and posturing, this up-and-coming figure feels hopeful about where the community is heading. She made sure to share a message of optimism with her fellow trans and nonbinary youth.

“There are so many people out there,” she explains. “I wish I knew that as a kid because I felt so isolated, thinking there was no one else like me. And the percentage of trans adults versus trans children is such a wide difference. [When you’re] a child at school you’re like, ‘I’m trans, and I don’t see many trans people, so I feel isolated, I feel different from anyone.’ But that is not the only community. There are thousands of communities waiting [for you], and the trans community is forever growing.”

Zaya came out publicly as trans in 2020 at just 13 years old. It is a lot of pressure for someone so young and so visible to be acting as a proponent for their community, but she says she feels honored by the opportunity.

“I’m a microphone,” she asserts. “I am my own person and I have my own experiences, but for me, as a role model, I try to use my personal experience to broadcast the positives and also the negatives in life, because a lot of LGBTQ+ youth go unrecognized in every way.”

“I think I am here to share those experiences: to voice them, but also to enhance them. So the world can know, ‘We are here, we are queer, we are here to stay, and we aren’t going anywhere.’”

As far as a message to the community’s allies? Zaya says half the battle is just being loud and proud about your support and striving to understand their experiences.

“The easiest [way] is just to be there. It is so easy to be there, as a shoulder to cry on or even as a sounding board,” she says.

“There are other ways, too, like researching. A lot of people don’t know what it means to be trans, and even if they do, they don’t know what it means to that specific person. Learn about your friend: they are different, and they are so much more.”

She explains that this kind of support is crucial in such a frightening cultural moment for the community.

“There are a lot of new fears they could have. Just be there to support them through anything: negativity, transphobic hate, but also the fear of coming out to people they love, [which] can be so stressful. To have someone who is like, ‘I got you’ is priceless.”