Zeke Smith was outed as a transgender man during the April 12 broadcast of "Survivor: Game Changer" on CBS (video below).
Jeff Varner, another contestant on the reality TV show, outed Smith during a "tribal council" meeting, reports The Daily Beast.
"There is deception here. Why haven’t you told anyone here you’re transgender?" Varner asked the 29-year-old Smith. "What I'm showing is a deception."
However, the tactic backfired as the other contestants fired back at Varner: "Nobody has the right to out anybody!" andn "That’s personal!"
Varner said that he "argue[s] for the rights of transgender people every day in the state of North Carolina."
"I don’t want the perception to be that I’m this evil hateful person," Varner added.
Varner tried to justify outing Smith, but ended up apologizing to Smith several times to no avail; Varner was voted off by his teammates.
In an interview with People magazine, Smith shared his take on the episode:
I didn’t want to be the "first transgender Survivor star." I’m not ashamed of being trans, but I didn’t want that to be my story. I just wanted to go out on an adventure and play a great game. I just wanted to be known for my game...
I think [Varner] hoped others would believe that trans people are dangerous and fraudulent. That reasoning is infinitely worse than him outing me because it’s the same one used to discriminate against, attack and murder trans people. What’s great is that nobody bought it.
It’s important people see he lost that fight. The message should be clear that hate will always lose.
GLAAD, an LGBT media advocacy group, issued a statement on Twitter: "Tonight's episode of #SurvivorGameChangers was a gut-wrenching look at the consequences of outing a transgender person against his will."
'Survivor" host Jeff Probst, who is also a producer on the show, shared his perspective of the episode with EW:
I don’t really remember a lot about my own feelings in the moments after Tribal. I remember feeling that Zeke seemed very centered when he left Tribal, despite what he had gone through and I believed his tribemates would help him work through things back at camp. But we were in touch with the producer on the beach that night to just ensure everything was going okay.
And then the other concern was Jeff Varner. Although I do not condone on any level what Varner did, I was still aware that he was without any of his support group of family and friends. He would be returning to Ponderosa, where voted out contestants go, after making one of the worst decisions of his life.
Fortunately, we have a full-time psychologist on staff who knows all of the contestants and is there to help them through any of the many things that come up on Survivor. I think those sessions in the days after the event helped Varner as he tried to make sense of everything.