“Survivor” contestant Zeke Smith was outed as transgender by fellow competitor Jeff Varner on Wednesday night’s episode of the CBS reality competition. The move has prompted online criticism and condemnation by a major LGBT rights group.
Varner made accusations of “a deception” before revealing that Smith is transgender on the episode. Varner was immediately criticized by other players. He repeatedly apologized, but was voted out of the competition.
In the tense tribal council, which was taped last year, Smith explained that he didn’t mention that he was transgender because he didn’t want to be known as “the trans ‘Survivor’ player. I wanted to be Zeke the ‘Survivor’ player.”
On the contrary, he now says appearing on “Survivor” was a step toward becoming the man he wants to be. He writes in The Hollywood Reporter that by calling him deceptive, Varner invoked “one of the most odious stereotypes of transgender people, a stereotype that is often used as an excuse for violence and even murder.
“In proclaiming ‘Zeke is not the guy you think he is’ and that ‘there is deception on levels y’all don’t understand,’ Varner is saying that I’m not really a man,” Smith continues, “and that simply living as my authentic self is a nefarious trick. In reality, by being Zeke the dude, I am being my most honest self – as is every other transgender person going about their daily lives.”
GLAAD also criticized the outing of Smith.
GLAAD said it worked with Smith and CBS “for several months” to prepare Smith for the publicity blitz that would accompany the episode’s airing.