Rapper Cardi B took to Instagram Live over the weekend to defend Zaya Wade, the transgender daughter of retired basketball player Dwyane Wade who came out this year, saying, “Let people find their happiness, especially kids — let them feel comfortable.”
In remarks lasting over four minutes, Cardi B addressed critics of Zaya Wade who say she is too young to transition or should have kept her identity secret.
“I feel like people are saying that this kid is too young to transition, but it’s like, how old is too young?” Cardi B asked. “What is the age limit for you to know that that’s what you want to be?”
The rapper said she had learned about transgender children from a documentary and questioned the notion that transgender children are confused about their identity — an argument used to support proposed bans on transition-related medical care for minors in states across the country.
“If you’re born like that, then you’re going to forever be like that,” Cardi B said. “What’s the point of you being older and then transitioning and being like, damn, I should have been through this.”
“Let people find their happiness, especially kids, let them feel comfortable,” she continued.
In a video shared on Gabrielle Union’s Instagram account, Zaya herself grappled with these complex questions of identity and belonging in a conversation with her father: “What's the point of being on this Earth if you're going to try to be someone you're not?” Zaya asked. “It's like you're not even living like yourself, which is, like, the dumbest concept to me."
“People are born like that, like that Lady Gaga song, I was born this way — that s--- is f------ real,” Cardi said.
Research published in December suggests that transgender children sense their own gender identity at a young age, just like cisgender children.
Cardi also touched on the dangerous circumstances faced by so many transgender youth, who are disproportionately homeless because of familial rejection.
“Some people are old school,” she said. “A lot of people don’t grow up with trans, gay people, this and that — they just don’t.”
“Please try to understand,” Cardi B said. “Especially when it’s a child.”
Transgender advocates praised Cardi B’s post for its humanity — and her enormous platform. The rapper has nearly 60 million Instagram followers, and nearly 34,000 people tuned in for her live video.
Human Rights Campaign spokeswoman Charlotte Clymer said she wished she could “take the common sense and empathy expressed by Cardi B in this video and instill it in many of our political leaders.”
“She understands what is so central to our humanity: that a basic respect for someone's authenticity is critical to their survival,” Clymer said.
“In an era that has seen high rates of homelessness, unemployment, suicide, and an ongoing epidemic of violence against trans and non-binary people, the vast majority of them Black women, Cardi B is literally saving lives by setting the example here. I'm grateful for her."
Jack Turban, a resident physician in psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, said it is “heartwarming” to see adults with large platforms stand up for the rights of transgender children — especially amid the politicization and stigmatization of transgender issues on a national level.
“No one should be surprised that, in the face of such attacks, these innocent children have high rates of anxiety, depression, and suicidality,” Turban said.
Cardi B also had one final response for people who suggested that Zaya Wade remain in the closet.
“When you hold a secret, it feels like such a burden. You might as well [be] free and let it out,” she said. “Speak your truth. Speak it.”