Spoiler alert! Do not proceed if you have not watched Wednesday’s two-hour season premiere of Survivor.
Season 42 of the competition reality show opened with a bang as one contestant dislocated his shoulder in an early challenge, and another had to make a surprising early exit.
Jackson Fox, of Pasadena, Texas, became the show’s first openly transgender competitor as the new season began to unfold. Here’s his intro package:
Longtime fans of the show will remember in 2017 Zeke Smith, who is transgender, participated in the reality show. But Smith kept his transition to himself until he was outed by another contestant during a tribal council.
Fox, a 48-year-old healthcare worker, revealed that he is transgender to his Taku tribe mates during a fireside chat on one of the first evenings, adding that he had originally applied as a contestant for Survivor 10 years ago as a woman.
Fox shared with his fellow contestants that when he realized he was trans, his parents couldn’t get on the same page about his transitioning, so he moved away. But some years ago, his mother became ill, and he moved back home to take care of his mom. During that time, some healing in his relationship with his parents occurred.
“I wanted to put it out there because I wanted my message to get out that anybody can do this,” Fox told Entertainment Weekly. “You can be in one of the worst places in your life, which I was. For 40 years, I was a miserable person. And then I found who I was supposed to be and started living my life for the first time and I enjoyed everything around me.”
“So I tell people I did that because I wanted to give that one person hope that you can do this,” he continued. “You’re not alone. There’s a ton of support out there. You just have to open yourself up for the support. And that’s what I did with my tribe. I wanted them to know I was an honest person. I wasn’t trying to skate by. I wanted them to know the real me.”
Thank you for sharing your story with us Jackson.💛 #Survivor
— SURVIVOR (@survivorcbs) March 10, 2022
The next day, though, host Jeff Probst visited the Taku tribe camp and asked to have a one-on-one with Fox. In private, Probst went over some of what contestants go through before being cast, and part of that is disclosing any medical issues in case a complication could arise.
Fox had apparently failed to disclose that he takes Lithium until the day before filming was to begin. He explained he began taking the drug a few years before to help him sleep and cope with anxiety during the time he was taking care of his mother.
However, Lithium can cause serious issues for people in stressful situations (like Survivor) where they may not be getting proper nutrition or hydration, coping with the heat, and the physical challenges.
Fox explained to Entertainment Weekly:
When I got contacted by Survivor, I was starting to wean off of it and I thought, “Well, I’ll be off of that before I get on the game.” Unfortunately, I was on the tail end of it when I got on Survivor.
And, of course, they do the medical background. They’re sitting there with you and the doctor, and she goes, “You’re on lithium?” And I was like “Yeah, but I’ve got, like, two doses left,” and she’s like, “Oh boy. So we kinda have to be a little careful with it because of dehydration, and we can’t send blood out to get tested because of COVID. We’ll just see what we can do.”
According to Probst, the producers decided to let Fox start the game “because nothing’s going to happen in 24, 48 hours so nobody’s worried about you at this point.” While nothing serious occurred during those two days, Jackson shared with EW he did experience some dizzy spells.
Probst asked Fox why he didn’t share about taking lithium until the day before the competition and the 48-year-old explained he thought he was going to off the drug by ‘go time.’ But he added that he felt “there’s a stigmatism associated with the drug.”
Fox admitted he was being frank about the situation because “I think you should talk about everything. I’m not ashamed to say I need help with certain things. That’s life.”
But Probst then went down the list of potential dangers for Fox. “That’s where our concern came,” Probst explained. “The cumulative effect of the show would have a potentially very bad impact on you. And we don’t want that. Your safety is paramount. We can’t do it. We can’t.”
Once it was clear the producers were taking him out of the game, Fox acknowledged he understood “and I appreciate you talking to me about it.”
“For someone who didn’t like anything about them for 40 years, then have someone say people liked things about you that you didn’t know that you were capable of, speaks volumes,” Fox continued. “And I appreciate it. It was the best 48 hours ever.”
Probst and Fox then broke the news to the tribe that he was being taken out of the competition, eliciting a very emotional response by his tribe mates before he climbed into a beach side boat and exited the game.
On Instagram, Fox described his short time in the game as “a once in a lifetime experience” that “absolutely changed my life.”