These days, it feels like Dwyane Wade's life is an open book. But his candor didn't come without some thought–and family discussions.
In his upcoming ESPN documentary, D.Wade: Life Unexpected, the retired NBA superstar opens up about his most private experiences, everything from confessing to Gabrielle Union that he fathered a child with another woman to the birth of their daughter Kaavia James via surrogacy. However, he was hesitant to include his daughter Zaya's brave decision to come out as transgender.
"I struggled on how much I wanted to talk about it in the doc," Wade told Robin Roberts on Tuesday's Good Morning America. "I actually didn't talk about it a lot, but I knew if I put it in the doc at all, it would be a big conversation...We struggled with what people would say about a 12-year-old making a decision about her life. But we also know our child."
Ultimately, as a family, they decided the teen's journey would serve as a learning experience for all. "We've been through so many different things that other people and other families go through and they thank us for speaking out on it," he said. "That's what we're trying to do. We know there are other families out there dealing with their kid finding themselves and learning who they are."
For Zaya, she's been discovering herself for nine years, trying to figure out her truth since she was just 3-years-old. "Zaya, early on, knew two things: She knew straight and she knew gay," the proud dad explained. "But Zaya started doing more research. She is the one who sat down with us, as a family, and said, ‘Hey, I don't think I'm gay.' She went down a list and said, ‘This is how I identify myself. This is my gender identity. I identity myself as a young lady. I identify as straight trans because I like boys.'"
"It was a process for us to sit down with our daughter and find out who she is and what she likes and not put something on her because, as parents, we put our hopes and we put our fears on our kids," Wade continued. "With Zaya, we decided to listen to her and she's leading us on this journey."
For his part, the former professional athlete has also been on a journey of his own. "I knew early on that I had to check myself," he told Roberts. "I knew early on that I had to ask myself questions. I've been a person in the locker room that has been a part of the conversation that has said the wrong phrases and the wrong words. As I got older and as I watched my daughter grow, I had to go look at myself in the mirror and say, ‘Who are you? What are you going to do if your child comes home and says, Dad, I'm not a boy? That I'm a gay boy or that I'm a trans girl. What are you going to do?'"
From then on, he prided himself in being better for his kids. "My daughter was my first interaction when it comes with having to deal with this conversation," Wade admitted. "Hopefully I'm dealing with it the right way. Some people think I'm not but, inside our home, we see the smile on our daughter's face. We see the confidence that she's able to walk around and be herself and that's when you know you're doing it right."
Unfortunately, not everyone has been as supportive of Zaya—but they refuse to let that bring them down. "We get a lot of hate from people," he revealed. "But along the way, we, inside, together, as the Wade family, we have to be the ones to have each other's back. For us, it was important that Zaya understood that her family has her back."
Now, he hopes his acceptance will encourage other parents to do the same with their kids. "I'm not going to sit here and act like we have all the answers," the 38-year-old admitted. "I'm not going to sit here act like before our child came home and sat us down that we was not ignorant parents when it comes to the world. When I say we're learning from our 12-year-old, we are literally learning from our child.'
"The biggest thing is have an open mind," he continued. "Go out and research. Ask your child, ask other people questions about this because this conversation is real. Our 12-year-old deals with this. This is her life every day. This is no game to us. We're about protecting her heart. We're about protecting her joy."
After all, they just want her to be who she is: a normal teen.
"She's a kid that wants to focus on school," Wade told Roberts. "Today, she has a mock trial at school that she's stressing about and she's like, ‘Dad, I came out to everyone because I wanted to be me. I'm thankful that I'm able to be me but I need to focus on my trial at school...I think for her and myself and my wife and my family, we love the fact that she doesn't have to hide who she is."