Gabrielle Union and Dwyane Wade on leaving Florida: ‘My child isn’t safe there’

Dwyane Wade and Gabrielle Union talk about their move from Florida to California.
(Willy Sanjuan / Invision / Associated Press)

Dwyane Wade and Gabrielle Union are further elaborating on their decision to relocate their family from Florida to California.

The retired NBA star, 41, and the “Bad Boys II” actor, 50, said finding a community for their daughter Zaya Wade, who is transgender, was a big part of their decision to leave Florida in 2021.

“When you have the kind of rhetoric that is being espoused in Florida and adopted into law, that’s not an option if my child isn’t safe there,” Union told Parents magazine for a cover story published Tuesday.


“There are a lot of reasons we decided California was best for our family and finding a community for Zaya was a big part of that,” added the former Miami Heat star. “We felt that California was a place that would allow her to blossom and grow. She’s going to be a junior in high school now, and she’s been able to be accepted and become her here.”

But Union says the couple have family and friends who don’t have the privilege of moving. “So we are going to be fighting till we are out of breath to protect all kids who are oppressed. That is our responsibility as people with large platforms and as people who folks trust, and they trust us because we say the hard thing.”

Wade said that fighting for custody of Zaya forced him to do therapy with his children and that, along the way, he learned the power of empowering your children. “Zaya has been living with us since she was 3, and my daughter can walk down a runway in Paris for the first time with all the confidence in the world because we’ve been cheering for her since then,” he continued. “Even now, I’ll lay across her bed and listen to her talk about the community she’s part of for two to three hours.”

Retired NBA star Dwyane Wade talks to Ellen DeGeneres about his 12-year-old child coming out as transgender.

Feb. 11, 2020

Fifteen-year-old Zaya came out as transgender when she was 12. After a contentious legal battle with Zaya’s mother, Siohvaughn Funches, the teen was ultimately granted a legal name and gender change in February 2020.

Shortly afterward, Wade spoke with Ellen DeGeneres during an appearance on her talk show, saying that he and Union are “proud parents of a child in the LGBTQ+ community” and “proud allies.”

“We take our roles and our responsibility 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 them, to give them the best information that we can, the best feedback that we can. And that doesn’t change because sexuality is now involved in it.”


Zaya launched a modeling career a couple of years after she came out, appearing in advertisements for Miu Miu and Tiffany & Co. She also posed for the cover of Dazed magazine in March.

“So many big changes have happened over the last couple of years with me, but also just in general. I think it’s not my job, but it’s my honor to continue and further my family’s education and appreciation for the entire LBGTQ+ community as we grow together,” Zaya told Dazed in March. “As our understanding of acceptance has broadened over the past couple of years, we have made the strides to keep ourselves educated and combat the ignorance.”

She also told the outlet that she felt most empowered when surrounded by her family. “No matter what happens, I feel strongest when I’m with them.”

Florida is banning gender-affirming care for minors and enacting a series of other anti-LGBTQ+ bills signed by Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis.

May 17, 2023

While accepting the President’s Award at the 2023 NAACP Awards in February, Wade and Union praised eldest daughter Zaya for living her truth.

“Zaya, as your father, all I’ve wanted to do was get it right. I’ve sat back and watched how gracefully you have taken on the public scrutiny,” Wade said to his daughter. “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.”

“Will we fight for some, or will we fight for all of our people?” continued Union in their acceptance speech. “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. Black trans people are being targeted, terrorized and hunted in this country, every day, everywhere. And there’s rarely a whisper about it.


“We honestly don’t approach this work as activists or leaders as much as we do this as parents, parents who love our children. ... This is a conversation worth having in ways that can actually build bridges, that don’t fan the flames 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.”