Gabrielle Union's advice to parents of LGBTQ kids: 'You can lead with humility'

In a new interview, the actress opens up about parenting her stepdaughter, Zaya.
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Gabrielle Union tells Self how her transgender stepdaughter helped her take a closer look at her own beliefs.Andrew Toth / Getty Images

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/ Source: TODAY
By Ree Hines

Earlier this year, Dwyane Wade told the world about the moment his daughter came out as transgender, and how he and wife Gabrielle Union immediately set out on a path to help Zaya “be her best self.”

But according to Union, Zaya has helped her too, and encouraged her to broaden her beliefs.

Union has spent the past few months in quarantine with her and Wade’s family, including their 1-year-old daughter, Kaavia, as well as the three children from Wade's previous relationships — Zaire, 18, Zaya, 13 and Xavier, 6 — and a nephew they also raise. Even Union’s sister and a family friend stay with them.

In an interview with Self magazine, the actress said she appreciates having the diversity of personalities around the house, especially for Zaya’s sake.

“I love that in our household there are so many different ways of expressing ourselves,” she told the publication. “And watching Zaya clock all of it. Right? That there’s no one way to be a woman. There’s no one way to be a Black woman. There’s no one way to be beautiful. There’s no one way to dress or to love your body.”

And the 47-year-old star has been clocking Zaya, too, and learning along the way.

For instance, when she was Zaya’s age, Union thought that learning to shave her underarms, courtesy of her mother, was a rite of passage. But when she considered ushering Zaya through that same rite, she got a lesson in individuality.

“Zaya was like, ‘But (actress) Amandla Stenberg doesn’t shave her armpits,’” Union recalled. “And I was like, ‘No, she does not!’”

And that simple exchange prompted Union to reconsider her thinking. Being a woman had nothing to do with shaved or unshaven armpits.

“You are a woman because you are,” she said. “Because that is your identity.”

Zaya continues to prove she has a clear vision of herself but also of Union, too — through the lens of her camera, as she’s the one who photographed Union for Self's June cover profile.

“I’m just interested to see myself through Zaya’s eyes,” Union said. “I think that’s really actually… really interesting. Because I trust her. And she has a story to tell.”

With Wade and Union’s help, Zaya has felt free to tell it.

And if there are any other parents of LGBTQ+ kids looking for advice, Union has some.

“You can lead with humility,” she said. “You can legit say, ‘Okay, I don’t have all the answers, but what I do know is that I love you, and I’m going to be on this journey with you, and we’re going to learn together.”