Why Gabrielle Union hates the time period ‘stepmom’: ‘It’s not a phrase that I take advantage of’

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - SEPTEMBER 13: Gabrielle Union attends 2021 Costume Institute Benefit - In America: A Lexicon of Fashion at the Metropolitan Museum of Art on September 13, 2021 in New York City. (Photo by Sean Zanni/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images)

Gabrielle Union is opening up in regards to the significance of household, consistency and constructing a secure house at home. (Photo: Sean Zanni/Patrick McMullan by way of Getty Images)

In the previous couple of years, Gabrielle Union and her husband, basketball participant Dwyane Wade, have used their platforms to boost consciousness round causes they care about, particularly in terms of the subject of elevating a queer baby.

When Wade’s daughter Zaya got here out as transgender final 12 months, each Union and Wade used it as a chance to advocate for trans points whereas additionally educating households and lecturers on create safer areas for kids like Zaya.

In a latest interview with Glennon Doyle on her podcast We Can Do Hard Things with Glennon Doyle, Union opens up about how she coached Wade earlier than Zaya got here out to him as homosexual (then, later, trans) in addition to the expertise of taking up the position of “stepmom” to Zaya and her siblings Xavier, 7, and Zaire, 19 — although she admits she hates the time period. (She can also be mother to Kaavia James, 2, whom she shares with Wade.) 

“The stepparent label was put on me by the kids’ school because you have to describe yourself: Who are you if you’re not their mother? It’s very annoying,” she defined. “It’s not a word that I use.”

Union herself was “an adult child of divorce,” she mentioned. Her dad and mom divorced when she was in faculty, after 30 years of marriage. And when her father married one other lady, it taught her the significance of setting clear boundaries. “To this day, I refer to her as my dad’s wife and her name. I don’t use the phrase stepmom.”

That expertise, she mentioned, helped her construct a relationship with Wade’s youngsters in a extra considerate manner.

“When I first started dating Dwayne, obviously I knew he had children,” she mentioned. “To this day, I’m kinda like, this is wild. You’re a single NBA player who got full custody of small children. It’s not common. So all of a sudden, it was Monday and we were just this carefree couple. I’d gotten divorced a few years prior and I was enjoying my life. We were fully enjoying all the things. And then on Tuesday, the kids arrived on a dime. The ruling came down and here are these kids. They need guidance and they need parenting. And we weren’t married at that point so I was just the additional adult in their life.”

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - MARCH 07: (L-R) Dwyane Wade, Zaya Wade and Gabrielle Union attend the Better Brothers Los Angeles' 6th annual Truth Awards at Taglyan Complex on March 07, 2020 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Andrew Toth/Getty Images)

Dwyane Wade, Zaya Wade and Gabrielle Union have used their platforms to construct dialogue about trans expertise. (Photo: Andrew Toth/Getty Images)

“I wanted to make sure I was consistent in their lives,” she defined of the children. “Whatever personality I was trying on that day, or whoever I was, I just needed to be consistent so they can get used to me. They’ve already gone through so much upheaval, moving states away, not knowing anyone, having gone through a divorce. I knew I needed to be consistent. I just didn’t know what my role was.”

Her efforts proved to be worthwhile. Even when Wade proposed to her, it was extremely symbolic, on condition that it wasn’t simply him proposing to her, however to the entire household, together with all the children. “I knew that after I married him, I used to be married to them,” she said.

“What I realized very quickly is you will never, ever, I don’t care if the other parent is dead, you will never be able to replace the other parent,” she explained of her relationship with the kids. “Don’t try to replace the other parent. That is not your job. Your job is to be consistent. If you’re a disciplinarian in your own life, continue to be that. Just be consistent so they know who you are … and kids adapt.”

When Zaya, then 12, decided to come out as gay — and soon after, trans — Union’s lifelong allyship to the queer community stepped in full swing. 

“My mom took us to our first Gay pride parade in 1982 when we moved to San Francisco,” Union defined. “She introduced us these stickers that mentioned, ‘Straight however not narrow-minded… Her considering was, I all the time wished to boost my ladies with a worldwide perspective, not a city perspective,” which was a stark distinction from how Wade was raised.

“On the south side of Chicago,” she defined of his upbringing. “His mom is a pastor. In sport, there is a lot of bigotry, a lot of fear, a lot of hatred, a lot of ignorance. People say a lot of stupid crap. When we first got together, I have a gaggle of friends in the LGBTQIA community, I was like, ‘Oh, everyday you’re going to be in the community so I need you to be comfortable.'” 

That wound up building a bridge for Zaya to be comfortable enough to come out in the third grade, after a school project led her to fully realize who she was. “Her teacher was a lesbian and she was like, ‘OK this is amazing but I don’t know if this information is safe with the other parents because this event was going to be presented to other parents,” Union defined, including that out of concern for Zaya’s privateness, the instructor disclosed the data to Union, which led her to breaking the ice with Wade.

“When I knew Zaya was coming home to share her truth with us, I also knew D’s listening face. He listens like he’s listening to a coach,” she mentioned. “I was like, ‘So when Zaya tells you, I need an open face. Eyebrows up. Smile.’ And he was like, OK.”

“Zaya comes home and she is shaking. She has no idea what our reaction was going to be,” she continued. “And she’s turning into me just balling, and I was like what it is baby? And she was like, ‘I’m gay.’ I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, this is wonderful! We’re going to celebrate! This is so awesome! I’m so happy you told us. This is so great.’ I was like, ‘Do you think you can tell dad?’ She was like, ‘I don’t know.’ I said, ‘I think dad might surprise you.’”

“She told D and he was like, ‘This is so wonderful. I’m so happy for you. I’m so proud of you,’” Union mentioned. “Then she was like, hm, maybe I can tell others…”

At the time, Zaya had what she known as a “never-ever” record of individuals she by no means wished to inform about her identification — and many of the names have been individuals who lived in the home. Turns out, the help from her dad and mom ended up empowering her a lot that she determined to come back out to all of them. 

“Fifteen minutes later, the older kids came home and [Zaya] goes up stairs. She flies back down and is like, ‘I told them!’” defined Union. “She was so surprised that she was being embraced with love and understanding and joy. And by the end of the week, people who were on the never-ever list, they’d flown off the list and she was able to live free.”

The expertise taught Union many classes she nonetheless carries immediately. One above the remaining, she mentioned, is to all the time acknowledge the significance of household, love, help and constructing a secure house for everybody to be themselves — even when which means standing your floor with folks of opposing views.

“We made it clear that our home and anything we touch is a sanctuary, and if you can’t get right with how we’re living and embracing all of our family members, you are not welcome here,” she mentioned. “I’m gonna love you from a cross the street. But this home is a sanctuary.”


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