“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.
Host Jeff Probst told Entertainment Weekly: “In 34 seasons of Survivor, I have rarely, if ever, personally commented on what is said or done in the game. But this is a unique situation that falls outside the normal boundaries. I cannot imagine anyone thinking what was done to Zeke was okay on any level, under any circumstances, and certainly not simply because there was a million dollars on the line. I think the response from the tribe, as it so often does, mirrors what the vast majority of society will feel. You just don’t do that to someone.”
Smith explained that he didn’t mention that he was transgendered because he didn’t want to be known as “the trans ‘Survivor’ player.”
He writes in The Hollywood Reporter that by calling him deceptive, Varner invoked “one of the most odious stereotypes of transgender people.”
GLAAD also criticized the outing of Smith. It says it worked with CBS and Smith on how to properly respond.
Varner calls his actions a “mistake” on Twitter and says he’s “deeply saddened.”
• Maria Stainer contributed to this article.
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