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NBA great Dwyane Wade launches Translatable, an online community supporting transgender youth

Wade's daughter, Zaya, who turns 17 next week, came out as transgender in 2020.
Dwyane Wade Translatable
Posted at 11:13 AM, May 24, 2024

NBA great Dwyane Wade was back in South Florida on Thursday to do battle again.

The Hall of Famer spent more than 14 seasons as a guard for the Miami Heat, winning three championships, having Miami-Dade County nicknamed “Wade County,” and he still leads the franchise in everything from points and rebounds to personal fouls. But the fight he outlined Thursday at The Elevate Prize Foundation’s Make Good Famous Summit, after receiving the nonprofit’s Elevate Prize Catalyst Award, may be the most personal of all.

“We've done so many great things here so it wasn't easy to leave,” Wade told The Associated Press in an interview before the award ceremony. “But the community wasn't here for Zaya, so the community wasn't here for us.”

Wade's daughter, Zaya, who turns 17 next week, came out as transgender in 2020 in the midst of anti-trans legislation in Florida and other states that prompted many trans adults to flee the state. The Wade family sold their Florida home last year and moved to California.

In accepting the award, Wade shared it with Zaya and credited her with inspiring the creation of Translatable, a new online community designed to support transgender children and their families.

“The question was presented to her as, ‘If you have one thing that you want to see change in this community, what would it be?’,” Wade recalled. “And, for her, it goes right to parents. It goes right to the adults. It goes right to us. It’s not the kids. It’s us. And so she wanted to create a space that felt safe for parents and their kids. That’s what Translatable is, and it's her baby.”

Wade hopes Translatable, which is funded by the Wade Family Foundation, will provide a community to "support growth, mental health, and well-being, and that this space ignites more conversations leading to greater understanding and acceptance.” He said he will use the $250,000 in unrestricted funding that comes with The Elevate Prize Catalyst Award for Translatable.

Elevate Prize Foundation CEO Carolina Garcìa Jayaram said that after hearing Wade’s plans, her nonprofit made a separate additional donation to Translatable, which was built with support from the Human Rights Campaign and The Trevor Project.

Dwyane Wade and what he represents speaks to the ethos of the whole foundation,” Jayaram told the AP. “He is such a hero in the sports universe and even beyond basketball. He’s been in the social justice space almost since the very beginning of his NBA career and most people don’t know that.”

Jayaram said that Wade felt empowered when Zaya came out as transgender in 2020 and it was “so deeply inspirational to us that we were just dying to be a part of what he’s building.”

The Elevate Prize Catalyst Award helps its winners, who have included actors Matt Damon and Michael J. Fox and Nobel Peace Prize Winner Malala Yousafzai, to amplify their philanthropic work by using the foundation’s resources and connections to inspire more donors and supporters.

Wade said his support of trans rights is a natural extension of being a parent and talked about how much he enjoys learning from Zaya in hourslong discussions at home. Jayaram said she was struck by Wade's devotion as a parent, but also commended his decision to launch Translatable in Florida, “a place where many might feel a sense of exclusion.”

“We understand that in this state that not everyone thinks the way some others think,” Wade said. "Like most things in life, once you get to know them, you have more ability to be understanding. And so if you don’t want to know them, then you stay ignorant in a sense.”

Dwyane Wade and Gabrielle Union with their daughters at a premiere.

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Comedian and “Everything's Trash” actress Phoebe Robinson, who interviewed Wade as part of the summit, said that she admired Wade for being outspoken on numerous issues.

“In a time when people are so worried about saying anything because they are only thinking about their bottom line, I think the fact that he’s thinking about humanity first is amazing, really stressing the importance of connection and community to help protect people and help them grow and just blossom,” Robinson said.

Alexander Roque, executive director of the Ali Forney Center, which helps homeless LGBTQ+ youth, said Translatable comes at a critical time for transgender youth, with more than 500 pieces of anti-LGBTQ legislation introduced this year.

“Not all bills turn into law, but they’re all acts of hate that affect our kids in very devastating ways,” he said. "We know statistically that every time there’s an anti-LGBTQ bill in the media, there’s a 400% increase in calls to suicide hotlines by young people. We also know that we’re seeing a significant increase in unhoused LGBTQ youth because of family rejection. So to have someone of this celebrity so invested in the community, it’s helping to change the tide of what’s happening to our kids and perhaps one of the most hopeful moments in what I hope is a changing tide.”

Dr. Michelle Forcier, a clinician at FOLX Health, which provides health services for LGBTQIA+ people nationally, said creating an online community for trans youth is a specific program that would be helpful.

“Youth are all about electronic and online communication, socialization, and communities,” she said. “So if you are trying to support youth it only makes sense to be a part of how youth feel most comfortable communicating.”

That this community comes from a celebrity ally makes it more impactful, Forcier said.

“The transgender and gender-diverse community does not have the deep pockets — including financial, political, and media resources — that the anti-transgender and anti-diversity political and advocacy community has,” she said. “To have a champion who shows up for some of our most vulnerable — transgender and gender-diverse youth and the families that care for them — that would be a truly heroic act and possibly change the game entirely.”