Published: Fri, April 21, 2017
Culture | By Stewart Greene

Disgruntled Survivor contestant outs other player as transgender

Disgruntled Survivor contestant outs other player as transgender

Themed "Game Changers", this season featured 20 returning castaways who divide into tribes to compete in a variety of challenges.

Zeke Smith, a contestant on CBS's Survivor, has been publicly outed as transgender by another contestant.

In an op-ed for The Hollywood Reporter, Smith touched on multiple topics, including how Survivor helped him through a period of deep depression and his transition, and the ways he has struggled with how, when, or if, to disclose his gender history to those close to him.

Varner, who knew he was about to be sent home, claimed he wanted to clear the air about something he declared his team mates needed to know. He attempted to save himself by casting suspicion on other tribe mates, including Smith.

"I don't believe Varner hates trans people, just as I don't believe conservative politicians who attack trans people actually care where we use the bathroom", Smith wrote.

The Washington Post reported that LGBT advocates called Varner's outing "low", "an act of violence", and the "worst thing anybody has done in 34 seasons" of "Survivor". Smith had played as an out gay man.

In an interview, Varner said he knew that he would be the one. "As for someone else bringing it up, Zeke was fully aware someone might suspect it or bring it up and he said, 'I will deal with it as it arises'".

During and after the show, many viewers took to Twitter to express their disappointment in Varner's actions.

Smith praises his cast mates for standing with him and not Varner.

Later, Varner repeatedly apologized to Smith, stating that he stands up "for the rights of transgender people everyday in the state of North Carolina".

The controversial moment came during episode's tribal council ceremony where contestants vote for the person they want to see leave the show.

"I think he hoped others would believe that trans people are risky and fraudulent", Smith said.

"I am under the impression that we are OK and he is OK and we're going to be OK", Varner said.

During a tribal council, Varner asked, "Why haven't you told anyone you're transgender?" I'm not ashamed of being trans, but I didn't want that to be my story. "There are people [in my life] who know, but then I sort of got to a point where I stopped telling people, because when people know that about you, that's sort of who you are". Even though the men were able to hug it out as Jeff rightfully was voted off, the Brooklyn-based asset manager still has lingering thoughts about if the openly gay former TV newsman is transphobic. When he left the business in 2014, he became "loud and proud", he said.

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