Survivor Contestant Outed as Trans Speaks, Ousted Castaway Apologizes

On last night’s Survivor, soon to be voted out contestant, Jeff Varner, outed fellow castaway Zeke Smith as transgender. Not only did Jeff out Zeke, but also called him deceptive for not telling the rest of the tribe that he was trans.

For more about last night’s Survivor, click for our blow by blow recap.

The reaction to the episode was swift. GLAAD released a statement after the episode aired.

“Zeke Smith, and transgender people like him, are not deceiving anyone by being their authentic selves, and it is dangerous and unacceptable to out a transgender person. It is heartening, however, to see the strong support for Zeke from the other people in his tribe. Moments like this prove that when people from all walks of life get to know a transgender person, they accept us for who we are.”

Indeed, Zeke’s tribe members immediately condemned Jeff for his actions. Viewer’s reactions have been mostly supportive as well. Additionally, some have wondered why CBS edited the episode to include the outing at all. The show isn’t live. The network could have chosen to leave Jeff’s outing on the cutting room floor.

Typically, reality show contracts give all the power to producers. Zeke would not have had a say on whether his outing would be part of the episode or not. One would only hope he was 100% on board. In a  guest column written for The Hollywood Reporter Zeke wrote:

I’m not wild about you knowing that I’m trans. Many gay people consider coming out a moment of liberation, because sharing their sexual orientation with the world causes them to be seen more authentically. Often, the opposite is true for trans people. When we share our gender history, many see us less authentically — doubting, probing or denying our identities.

But in calling me deceptive, Varner invoked one of the most odious stereotypes of transgender people, a stereotype that is often used as an excuse for violence and even murder. In proclaiming “Zeke is not the guy you think he is” and that “there is deception on levels y’all don’t understand,” Varner is saying that I’m not really a man and that simply living as my authentic self is a nefarious trick. In reality, by being Zeke the dude, I am being my most honest self — as is every other transgender person going about their daily lives.

It appears that Zeke isn’t happy to be outed, but he’s turning the experience into a teaching moment. Jeff, a former local news anchor is a gay man. Zeke forgives him, but doesn’t see the two of them “sipping martinis together in Fire Island” any time soon.

After last night’s show, Zeke also posted to his Instagram page:

“I cannot adequately express how touched and honored I am for the overwhelming love and support I’ve received tonight. It’s been a long nine months awaiting this night. I couldn’t have made it through the journey without Nick Adams, Director of @glaad ‘s Transgender Media Program. He’s been a guide, mentor, and friend over these tumultuous months. I love you, Nick!”

And Jeff posted an apology. He’ll not only go down as a three time Survivor player who never made it to jury, but also one of the most notorious villains ever to come out of the game:

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