'Survivor' Contestant Zeke Smith Was Outed As Trans On National Television
If you watched last night's new episode of Survivor: Game Changers, you were witness to the moment when transgender contestant Zeke Smith was outed on national television to millions of viewers.
Smith was outed by a fellow contestant, Jeff Varner, a realtor from North Carolina, who himself is an out gay man.
In a Hail Mary move to save his own skin on the CBS reality competition on Wednesday night, fellow contestant Jeff Varner told the rest of the tribe that “there was deception here,” before turning to Smith and asking, “Why haven’t you told anyone here that you’re transgender?”
Smith kept silent for the ensuing moments.
Varner, attempting to make sense of his actions, alluded to the fact that $1 million was at stake.
“I’m gonna beat myself up over this,” he said to the council.
29-year-old Smith is a Brooklyn based asset manager.
He tells People that he“didn’t want to be the ‘first transgender ‘Survivor’ contestant,” and hadn't planned on coming out on the show.
“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.”
Speaking of Varner, Smith said:
“I think you see this tactic used a lot by politicians to pass these so-called bathroom bills and I don’t think it’s a coincidence that he’s from North Carolina, where the most dangerous of these bathroom bills was passed."
“I think the hardest part is that if he was just some ignorant bigot, you could just write him off, but he’s not,” Smith says of Varner, who is gay. “He knows better. I think because he’s gay, people give his words a little more weight and I don’t know if he believes what he said — but he definitely hoped others would.”
Ultimately, Smith is thankful for his fellow tribemates who chastised Varner for his actions.
“Trans people are a highly vulnerable population. We make easy targets. We’re attacked a lot and I expected a lot more from Varner,” says Smith. “But I think it’s so great that you see his hateful tactics rebuffed with such amazing love and from such a diverse group that responds to him.”
In a statement to TheWrap, Nick Adams, Director of GLAAD’s Transgender Media Program, writes:
“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."
As you'd imagine, viewers had plenty to say on social media:
What did you think of last night's Survivor?