Society

'Survivor' Contestant Outed As Transgender

| by Michael Doherty

Cast members were outraged when a contestant on reality TV show "Survivor: Game Changers" outed another contestant as transgender.

Contestant Jeff Varner revealed that Zeke Smith is a transgender man during a Tribal Council on an episode of the show, saying Smith had deceived the other contestants, CNN reports.

"Why haven't you told anyone you're transgender?" demanded Varner during the show.

Varner's fellow contestants told him that the choice to come out as transgender or not was Smith's decision, and that it wasn't right to publicly out him on the show. Varner was voted off the show, even after he had apologized.

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"That is so wrong for you to bring that up," said one contestant according to The Sun.

Smith responded to Varner by saying that he hadn't wanted to be thought to as "the trans 'Survivor' player," but rather that he "wanted to be Zeke the 'Survivor' player."

Host Jeff Probst criticized Varner's outing of Smith in an interview with Entertainment Weekly.

"In 34 seasons of 'Survivor,' I have rarely, if ever, personally commented on what is said or done in the game. But this is a unique situation that falls outside the normal boundaries," said Probst.

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"I cannot imagine anyone thinking what was done to Zeke was OK on any level, under any circumstances, and certainly not simply because there was a million dollars on the line," he said. "I think the response from the tribe, as it so often does, mirrors what the vast majority of society will feel. You just don’t do that to someone."

In a  guest column for The Hollywood Reporter, Smith explained that he had started watching "Survivor" while he was transitioning and dealing with depression.

"I'm not wild about you knowing that I'm trans," wrote Smith.

"A person's gender history is private information and it is up to them, and only them, when, how, and to whom they choose to disclose that information," he continued. "Keeping your gender history private is not the same as a gay person being 'in the closet.' The only people who need to know are medical professionals and naked fun time friends."

Probst said that he was impressed by Smith's calm response to Varner, even hugging him as he left the show.

"I was also very impressed with the compassion Zeke showed Varner. I wonder if some people will say he shouldn’t have hugged him or shouldn't have forgiven him," said Probst. "But as a viewer to that moment, I found his ability to still find some level of humanity for someone who had just injured him so severely, maybe his crowning moment."

Sources: CNN, Entertainment Weekly, The Sun, Hollywood Reporter / Photo credit: Nico Time/Flickr

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