Survivor: Contestants Respond After One Player Outs Another as Transgender

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Zeke Smith. Photo: CBS Photo Archive/CBS via Getty Images

On Wednesday night’s episode of Survivor: Game Changers the elimination ceremony took an ugly turn with real world consequences when contestant Jeff Varner revealed to his other castmates that fellow player Zeke Smith is a transgender man. Varner was the clear favorite to go home, and in an attempt to save himself, he told the Tribal Council “there is deception here” before turning to Smith and asking, “Why haven’t you told anyone that you’re transgender?”

Several contestants were quick to defend Smith, who was visibly shocked by Varner’s words. Players rallied around Smith’s right to keep his past private — Smith had already gone through a season (Survivor: Millennials vs. Gen X) without divulging this portion of his medical history. “I didn’t want to be the ‘trans’ Survivor player, I wanted to be Zeke the Survivor player,” Smith explained. “I don’t even need a cheerleader because I know I can do whatever I want to do.” He later tweeted about the event, “We cannot control the hazards we face, we can only control how we respond. Love each other.”

Varner was eliminated following the event. “I was wrong and I make no excuses for it,” Verner wrote in a lengthy apology post on Twitter. “I own responsibility in what is the worst decision of my life.” He added, “Outing someone is assault. It robs a strong courageous person of their power and protections and opens them up to discrimination and danger.”

Survivor: Contestant Outed As Transgender Against His Will