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The legal name of Dwyane Wade's daughter is at the center of a court battle

Dwyane Wade (from left), Zaya Wade and Gabrielle Union at the Better Brothers Los Angeles 6th annual Truth Awards on March 07, 2020.
Andrew Toth
Getty Images
Dwyane Wade (from left), Zaya Wade and Gabrielle Union at the Better Brothers Los Angeles 6th annual Truth Awards on March 07, 2020.

Dwyane Wade is trying to legally change his transgender daughter's name and gender. But his ex-wife, Siohvaughn Funches, is asking the court to stop him.

The former pro basketball player originally filed a petition with the Los Angeles court for 15-year-old Zaya Wade, whom he has sole custody of, on Aug. 22. But on Tuesday, Funches filed an objection, arguing that the custody agreement between Wade and herself grants her the ability to still be involved in decisions like this, according to court documents obtained by Entertainment Tonight.

A decision on the matter won't be made until the hearing, reportedly scheduled for Dec. 12.

In the objection, Funches claims that she had a meeting with Wade in April, during which"[He] told me that he intended to make our child very famous due to the name and gender issue and also informed me that there would be endorsements/contracts associated therewith."

Wade responded to news of his ex-wife's petition on Thursday. He called Funches an "absent parent" who is not involved in Zaya's life, and denied allegations that legally changing his daughter's gender and name are for financial gain.

"No one in our house would ever force Zaya or any of our children to do anything against their will, much less force an identity on them," Wayne wrote in a statement posted to his Instagram. "This isn't a game for my family and definitely not for Zaya."

View this post on Instagram A post shared by dwyanewade (@dwyanewade)

Wade publicly discussed his support of his daughter's identity while on the Ellen show in February 2020. He shared that he and his wife, Gabrielle Union, "are proud parents of a child in the LGBTQ+ community."

"We take our roles, and our responsibilities, as parents, very seriously," he said. "When our child comes home with a question, when a child comes home with an issue, when a child comes home with anything, it's our job as parents to give them the best information that we can, the best feedback that we can."

Disputes between parents over affirming a transgender child 'are unfortunately common'

It's "unfortunately common" to see parents disagree over how to best raise a transgender child, according to Asaf Orr, senior staff attorney and director of the Transgender Youth Project at the National Center for Lesbian Rights, in San Francisco.

And while these disputes rarely end up in court, they do occur. In 2019, a Dallas judge granted joint custody to both parents of a 7-year-old who wanted to transition. The mother had previously filed a lawsuit requesting that the father affirm the child's chosen gender identity and pronouns.

"Typically, even when a parent has sole custody, it is common for even that parent to consult with the other parent when making major decisions," Orr said. "It would really come down to the terms of the custody agreement."

Orr also said that Wade's decision to file for a legal change to his daughter's name and gender is "a critically important step in a person's transition."

"Given the child's age in this case, and the fact that Mr. Wade has had sole custody for such a long period of time, those are certainly also factors that the court may considering in assessing what's in the child's best interest," Orr said.

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Giulia Heyward
Giulia Heyward is a weekend reporter for Digital News, based out of New York. She previously covered education and other national news as a reporting fellow at The New York Times and as the national education reporter at Capital B News. She interned for POLITICO, where she covered criminal justice reform in Florida, and CNN, as a writer for the trends & culture team. Her work has also been published in The Atlantic, HuffPost and The New Republic.