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Awards Season Highlight You Might Have Missed: Gabrielle Union’s Powerful Speech About the Intersection of the Black and Trans Experience

Gabrielle Union and Dwyane Wade stand on stage

During this year’s NAACP Image Awards, Dwyane Wade and Gabrielle Union-Wade accepted the President’s Award and used their platform to give a passionate speech about the Black and transgender experience while also praising their trans daughter, Zaya.

Wade began the couples’ speech by openly praising Zaya for as he watched her “walk out of the house every morning as[herself].” Zaya, who first came out as trans in 2020, had received nothing but love and support from both of her parents despite the obscene negative reactions from hateful parts of the community. Wade explained that being the father of a transgender teen has “taught me that communication with my mouth isn’t enough. I have to also communicate with my two ears and my two eyes.” He went on to explain that it wasn’t his place to “create a version of myself or direct [her] future” and that she has made him a “better human just simply by being who [she was] born to be: [their] baby girl, Zaya Wade.”

Union went on to echo the sentiments of her husband by acknowledging what an honor it was to use their platform to speak about two increasingly marginalized groups and asked if the NAACP and the Black community as a whole will “fight for some or will we fight for all of our people?” The actor explained that at the intersection of Black rights and the rights of the LGBTQIA, the struggles of trans and gender non-conforming people “continues to be rough,” and 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.”

As Union correctly pointed out, Black trans people are being “targeted, terrorized and hunted in this country every day, everywhere” and there’s not a lot of talk about it in the news. While only 13% of the transgender community is estimated to be Black, according to a study from the UCLA School of Law’s Williams Institute, Black trans women account for nearly three-quarters of the known victims of violence. Union explained that she and Wade approach this troubling issue not as activists, but as parents and that their end goal is to “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.”

At the end of the day, Wade and Union only want what any parent wants: for their child to be safe, healthy, and happy. But due to the dangerous and discriminatory anti-trans legislation being passed/drafted in the country, thousands of parents can’t guarantee that kind of future for their kids. We’re supposed to be the land of the free and yet our government wants to limit people’s ability to ensure the welfare of their children. But, thankfully, at least we have powerful people like Wade and Union who will continue to speak out about these issues.

(featured image: BET)

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A freelance journalist covering pop culture, politics, and everything in between. Can be found crying over Marvel movies (especially those with Wanda Maximoff in it), baking, or reading one of the many books still unread in her library. You can find her on Twitter and Instagram @oh_kayx