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Dwyane Wade’s perspective changed as he watched ‘son … become into who she now’ is

Dwyane Wade hugs his child, Zion, after his final career home game with the Miami Heat at American Airlines Arena in April. (Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

Retired NBA star Dwyane Wade commended his child’s “strength and courage” in a podcast published Thursday, referring to Zion as “she” weeks after online trolls criticized the 12-year-old for wearing feminine clothing in social media posts.

In an interview with “All the Smoke with Matt Barnes and Stephen Jackson,” both former NBA players, Wade, a three-time NBA champion, discussed his evolution toward accepting Zion’s gender identity.

“I’ve watched my son, from Day 1, become into who she now eventually has come into,” he said. “For me it’s all about, nothing changes with my love. Nothing changes with my responsibilities. Only thing I got to do now is get smarter and educate myself more. And that’s my job.”

Wade and his spouse, actress Gabrielle Union, have four children: Zaire, 17; Zion, 12; Xavier, 6; and Kaavia, 1. Their three oldest children are Wade’s from previous relationships.

Zaire and Zion already have found the public spotlight. Zaire plays with LeBron James’s son Bronny on the nationally ranked Sierra Canyon School basketball team. The team has been featured multiple times on national television and draws crowds of thousands for its games.

Dwyane Wade shuts down Internet ‘stupidity’ over Zion’s look in family photo

Zion, though, has been the target of online harassment over photos that have appeared on Wade’s and Union’s social media accounts. Zion was pictured wearing long nails and what appeared to be a crop top in a family Thanksgiving photo posted on Union’s Instagram account.

Wade posted a photo of Zion in October with Union and Kaavia and captioned the image, “My girls.” That drew backlash from some users, with whom Wade and Union jousted online.

“Looks like love to me,” Union wrote. “I truly hope that everyone gets the love, support and hugs they deserve.”

Wade addressed the online critics on the podcast.

“All these people that’s out there saying those [hateful] things, look at yourself,” Wade said on the podcast. “Understand that you’re the one that’s got the issues. You’re the one that’s got the problems. It’s not the kids.”

He said Union “gave me some different lenses to look through” and “changed my whole perspective” on LGBTQ issues.

“I had to look myself in the mirror when my son at the time was 3 years old and me and my wife started having conversations about us noticing that he wasn’t on the boy vibe that Zaire was on,” he said. “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?’ ”

Wade’s interview drew acclaim. Julián Castro, a Democratic presidential candidate and former Housing and Urban Development secretary, called Wade “an inspiration” on Twitter.

“His unconditional love for Zion will give other parents the courage to love and respect their children for who they truly are,” Castro wrote.

Ben O’Keefe, a staffer for Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, another Democratic presidential hopeful, tweeted, “It’s hard to overstate the power and beauty of @DwyaneWade and @itsgabrielleu so strongly supporting their child on the world stage. All queer kids deserve love and support and I’m so thankful for the example Dwyane and Gabrielle are setting for parents everywhere.”

GLAAD, one of the nation’s largest LGBTQ advocacy groups, wrote simply, “We love supportive parents like @DwyaneWade and @itsgabrielleu.”

Wade had told Variety in June that he doesn’t talk much about his parenting, “because it’s Zion’s story to tell.”

“I’m very uneasy about accolades that come from supporting my kids or the negativity that comes from it,” he said then. "I’m doing what every parent has to do. Once you bring kids into this world, you become unselfish. It’s my job to be their role model, to be their voice in my kids’ lives, to let them know you can conquer the world. So go and be your amazing self, and we’re going to sit back and just love you.”

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