The world of professional sports is one of the most influential and celebrate industries out there. That said there is hardly any LGBTQ+ representation. The likes of Justin Fashanu, Martina Navratilova and Gareth Thomas, amongst many, many others, have paved the way for representation and support for LGBTQ+ people in sports. These role models have made a positive impact for future and current LGBTQ+ sportspeople, and non-sportspeople, to be part of something that is often hyper-masculinised and regarded as homophobic. So when I came across this unlikely ally, I had to know more.
Allies are individuals who support and advocate the rights and equalities of others who are marginalised and discriminated against in society. In this instance, heterosexual (straight) people who advocate the rights of LGBTQ+ people.
Over the next few blogs, I will be highlighting key names across the world who are making their voices heard on behalf of the marginalised. In today’s issue, we’re looking at an unlikely ally from the world of sport. Without further ado here's the story of LGBTQ+ ally, retired basketball player and businessman, Dwyane Wade.
Dwyane Tyrone Wade Jr. was born in Chicago, Illinoise, on January 17th, 1982. He would grow up through a difficult childhood following his parent’s divorce and lived with his mother and her subsequent drug addiction. He and his sister later moved in with their father. By way of avoiding drug and gang culture, Wade took up football and basketball and began playing for on the Marquette University team in 2001, and by 2003 he was drafted into the NBA as shooting guard.
Wade’s professional career started with Miami Heat in 2003 and quickly made his mark on the sport, consistently toping numerous rookie statistic boards. Through hard work, consistent training, and numerous injuries, including sinusitis, flu, a knee strain, severe bruising and intense pain, Wade rapidly became part of the elites and was on the 2005-2006 season All-Star Game. In 2006 he would take the Heat’s to NBA victory and win the finals.
His career (and injuries) continued with the Heat and by 2008 was at Olympic level, securing gold with the U.S. National Team. Between the 2009-2010 season he was an unstoppable force, taking the Heats to victory over the Chicago Bulls and the New Jersey Nets, and would again be part of the 2010 All-Star game and achieve MVP recognition.
In 2012, Wade was making NBA history as the first team to win a championship after falling behind in three playoff series. However, he acquired more injuries, undergoing a knee operation in that same year, and missed a further 28 games during the 2013-2014 season. Following his recovery, Wade was making a strong comeback and would take the Heat’s to the finals against the San Antonio Spurs, where they unfortunately lost.
In 2016, Wade transferred to the Chicago Bulls for $47million, but his court streak was waning and the following year he was signed by the Cleveland Cavaliers where it was clear his Miami Heat success had not followed.
In early 2018, Wade returned to the Miami Heat where his success streak came rushing back, taking the lead against the Atlanta Hawks and the Philadelphia 76ers, ending their 17-game winning streak.
By 2019, he achieved NBA history as the third player to score 20,000 points, 5,000 assists, 4,000 rebounds, 1,500 steals, 800 blocks and 500 three-pointers in an NBA player’s career. He went on to play his 13th, and last, All-Star Game, before retiring to spend more time with his family.
Wade’s career and achievements are highly commendable and are certainly important to the reason he is listed as a Queero.
Wade is an icon in basketball and has left a legacy that is truly commendable. He has influenced many people in their sporting career, a large portion of whom may not hold positive and progressive opinions on the LGBTQ+ community, as is typical of the sporting world. And that influence is important for his Queero award.
In 2020, Wade and his wife Gabrielle Union, proudly announced that their daughter was transgender and has changed her name from Zion to Zaya.
Meet Zaya. She's compassionate, loving, whip smart and we are so proud of her. It’s Ok to listen to, love & respect your children exactly as they are. Love and light good people. pic.twitter.com/G2lLVdD2VT
— Gabrielle Union (@itsgabrielleu) February 11, 2020
As is (unfortunately) expected, the family came up with strong opposition about their love and support for their daughter, and online comentators would sound their advice and opinions. American rapper, Boosie Badazz, imfamously sounded his opinion in a vicious attack against the family and demanded they leave their son the way god intended. Thankfully, fellow rapper Jay Z and former heavyweight boxer, Mike Tyson, came to the defence of Zaya and asked Boosie to apologise and keep his opinions to himself. Look at all these allies up in here!!
LGBTQ+ advocacy aside, Wade also knew that this was not something he was familiar with and he and wife Gabrielle reached out to the cast of Pose, a series about LGBTQ+ ballroom culture during the AIDS Crises, where most of the cast are trans and portray trans characters, seeking further advice and information.
"As we say in the hood, it's ignant. I grew up with the same perspective as a lot of these people out here that's a little ignant. I had to look myself in the mirror and say, 'What if your son comes home and tells you he's gay? What are you going to do? How are you going to be? How are you going to act? It ain't about him. He knows who he is. It's about you. Who are you?”
Dwyane, Zaya and Gabrielle wearing the colours of the genderqueer flag!!!
This tough, masculine, black, cis-gendered man is shattering the perception and the standards that come from high profile sports. The message he is giving off is that LGBTQ+ people matter and they belong in the world, whether it's sports or otherwise.
With more than 26.9million followers across his social media, and continuing to make regular appearance across news outlets, Wade is influencing the people he reaches with positive attitudes towards transgender people and their rights. He is proactively educating himself and encouraging others to do so and become proud allies like he and his amazing family.
I hope to see more names from the world of sports be inducted in the list in the future, but for now, the sportsman, the legend, the Queero, Dwyane Tyrone Wade Jr. Thank you for all who you continue to inspire and all that you continue to do.