In a new interview with PEOPLE, Gabrielle Union and Dwyane Wade are sharing their parenting philosophies, and what they have to say is so profound all parents should take a minute to stop and listen to their words. Wade’s 13-year-old daughter, Zaya, came out as transgender last year and both Union and Wade have shown unwavering support for her journey. Since then, they’ve figured out exactly how they hope to parent all of their children together—authentically.

“When I look at Zaya, I get hope because I’m like, okay, we raised [our kids] to be authentic,” Wade says.


Union says when Zaya came out as trans to her family, Union immediately began working on educating herself and reaching out to people for information. She says that no matter how accepting she and Wade are, and how much they try to learn, they know they’re going to make mistakes—and that’s OK.

“We weren’t coming into it like it’s got to be our way,” she says. “We’re going to mess up. We’re going to say the wrong thing. But we had to learn and be led.”

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In the interview, the couple also discusses the importance of preparing their Black children to navigate the world.

“We’re raising Black kids and every day in the world, they show us what we’re thought of,” Wade explains. “You realize you can’t protect them from everything. The only thing you can do is make sure they go out into the world with all the tools they need.”

In addition to Zaya, Wade and Union are raising their two-year-old daughter, Kaavia James, as well as Wade’s sons Zaire, 19; and Xavier, 7. Wade’s 19-year-old nephew, Dahveon, is also part of the family. And both parents plan to protect their children any way they can.

“Our home will never be a safe space for bigots,” says Union. “I look at problematic language as violence and I’m never going to expose anyone I love to violence, whether that be verbal, physical, emotional or spiritual. Jerks exist in every area of life. And we function from a place of truth in our household. But if you come at us, oh, be very prepared.”

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The murder of George Floyd last summer inspired months of national protests against racism and police brutality. Raising Black children in a country rife with racism comes with many layers of parenting white moms and dads will never be capable of fully understanding. This is why Union and Wade want to ensure their children can survive that reality now and in the future. Union, in particular, knows how important it is to raise Black children that are not only aware of the challenges they’ll face in life, but to know how to handle them.

“I was raised to conform,” she said. “But we are raising our kids to know they are worthy because they exist. We don’t want them to ever shapeshift for anyone else’s approval or acceptance. We want them to be free to be who they are.”

Speaking of not conforming, Union and Wade are fully aware of how much the internet loves little Kaavia’s expressions and personality, always on full display on social media. In fact, she believes Kaavia’s “shade” is her superpower. When so many parents are desperate for their kids to smile and perform cheerfully, Union is simply letting Kaavia be Kaavia.

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“When Kaavia gives you a look, it’s either you’re not respecting her boundaries or something is happening that she doesn’t like,” Union explains. “The main takeaway is that she’s free to be this amazing, dynamic, shady at times, loving at times Black little girl when the world has not been so kind to Black girls and women.”

Hear, hear. Cheers to parents like Gabrielle Union and Dwyane Wade for being so generous with us and teaching parents everywhere that acceptance and love are two of the biggest gifts you can give your children, and the benefits of those two things last a lifetime.