NBA Champion Dwyane Wade Advocates for Trans Youth with New Prize Money

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South Florida’s vibrant sun thrummed warmly as the thrice-tagged NBA champion, Dwyane Wade, returned to his stomping grounds. Miami Beach, where Wade’s sweat and skill, and the escalating roar of the crowd, strummed the pulse of the city for over 14 seasons, found itself in the eye of the spirited yet subdued guard yet again—not on the painted hardwood this time, but at a philanthropic gathering.

Within the echoing halls of The Elevate Prize Foundation’s Make Good Famous Summit, Wade traced out the twilight edges of his newest mission, a cause precious to his heart. His stature was sizable, too. Miami-Dade County donned the monicker, “Wade County” during his legendarily decorated career, and he remains perched atop the franchise’s records in points grabbed, rebounds snagged, and fouls committed.

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As reminiscence tiptoed across the conversation, Wade shared the bittersweet farewell from South Florida, saying, “We’ve done so many great things here so it wasn’t easy to leave.” The void left behind by the community’s lack of support for his daughter, Zaya, echoed in his voice. “But the community wasn’t here for Zaya, so the community wasn’t here for us.”

Just short of 17, Zaya declared her identity as a trans woman in 2020, a year smeared with an uptick in anti-trans legislation both in Florida and beyond, which marshalled a mass exodus of trans adults from the state. The Wade family, too, packed their memories into boxes and relocated to the sun-kissed expanses of California.

Upon accepting the nonprofit’s Elevate Prize Catalyst Award, Wade turned to his shining beacon, Zaya, sharing the honor and acknowledging her as the spark that led to the formation of Translatable—an online haven built to cradle trans children and their families. He voiced Zaya’s wish to create an environment of openness, understanding, and acceptance specifically tailored for parents as well as their offspring—a safe space for enlightenment and empowerment.

A communal and ground-breaking endeavor fostered by the Wade Family Foundation, Translatable aims to continue nurturing the mental health and overall well-being of its members, shining a light on the path toward greater understanding. The hefty prize money of $250,000 accompanying the Elevate Prize Catalyst Award will be steered towards nurturing this digital sanctuary.

Having heard Wade’s enrichment plan, Carolina García Jayaram, CEO of Elevate Prize Foundation, was moved to make an additional donation to Translatable, and commended the impact Wade’s influence has had. The initiative, she revealed, was supported by the Human Rights Campaign and The Trevor Project.

Jayaram praised Wade for using his celebrity platform, not just in the world of sports, but beyond the basketball court as a proactive and vocal advocate for social justice—a lesser-known side of the decorated athlete. She also acknowledged his brave decision to launch Translatable in Florida amidst a climate of exclusion.

Despite this, Wade remains hopeful. “Like most things in life, once you get to know them, you have more ability to be understanding,” he maintains.

As admiration trickled in from various corners of the summit, praise for Wade’s commitment from individuals such as Phoebe Robinson—a comedian and actress—stood out. Robinson lauded Wade’s commitment to uplifting humanity first and promoting a sense of community, diving deep into the grand cause of societal growth and inclusivity.

As alarming numbers of anti-LGBTQ bills emerge, causing a troubling surge in suicide hotline calls and a significant rise in displaced LGBTQ youth due to family rejection, the establishment of Translatable comes at a critical juncture. Entities like the Ali Forney Center have hailed Wade’s deep investment and his pivotal alliance as a beacon of hope that might sway the currents of societal acceptance.

Dr. Michelle Forcier from FOLX Health, a national provider of health services for the LGBTQIA+, states that the creation of online communities tailored explicitly for trans youth is a burgeoning necessity.

In her words, “to have a champion who shows up for some of our most vulnerable […] that would be a truly heroic act and possibly change the game entirely.”