Though there have been more than 30 seasons of the popular reality show Survivor, no one and I mean no one could have anticipated the events of last night’s soon-to-be infamous episode.
Millions of viewers are beyond enraged after watching one contestant blatantly out another for being transgender on-air. Yes, really.
Wednesday night’s episode of Survivor is sparking outrage after one contestant outed another for being transgender.
Last night, the remaining Survivor contestants gathered for the “tribal council”—an elimination ceremony at the end of each episode where one cast member is voted off. One contestant named Jeff Varner was positive he would be sent home and began grasping at any straws he could.
This level of certainty was particularly unsettling to one contestant who said, “When somebody is that certain, a little feeling of unease creeps over me. I’m just preparing myself to be absolutely shocked tonight.”
Little did she or the millions of viewers watching at home know, that these words would ring so horribly true. As Varner began pleading with his fellow contestants to vote out other members like the strategic Isaac, he alluded to a more complex deception occurring under the radar.
“There is deception here. Deception on levels, Jeff, that these guys don’t even understand,” said Varner. “There’s more.”
The show’s host, Jeff Probst, urged him to continue.
Then, we see Varner direct his attention towards Zeke Smith, a contestant who has identified as a gay man for the past two seasons of Survivor, and asked “Why haven’t you told anyone you’re transgender?”
Viewers and cast members alike, including Probst, were taken aback and immediately outraged. The other contestants began to admonish Varner for such a cruel and unimaginable invasion of privacy.
How could anyone possibly think that was okay?
“It’s one thing to lie about someone sneaking off at night to search for hidden advantages. It is quite another to incense bigotry toward a marginalized minority.” Zeke Smith later said to the Hollywood Reporter.
After realizing what a monumental ass he had made out of himself, Varner attempted to justify his actions saying he was attempting to show a pattern of betrayal but Probst quickly shut him down.
“You’re saying that by not revealing it, he’s capable of deception. That’s a giant leap in logic. Do you not see that?” Probst said.
Varner then began to backtrack, apologizing to Zeke and insisting he had made a mistake, but again Probst had the perfect response, “You can’t unring the bell.”
Needless to say a vote wasn’t quite necessary for this tribal council and Varner was kicked off of the show.
“It’s a game for a million dollars, and I clearly have made the wrong choice tonight,” said Varner.
Once the controversial episode hit the air GLAAD spoke on behalf of Zeke and all transgendered individuals.
Nick Adams, Director of GLAAD’s Transgender Media Program, said: “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.”
Zeke Smith also spoke out saying that he’s not “wild” about people knowing he’s trans, but it’s who he is.
In a statement to Hollywood Reporter, Smith said: “I’m not wild about you knowing that I’m trans. An odd sentiment, I realize, for someone who signed up for two seasons of the CBS reality giant, Survivor. See, when I got on a plane to Fiji last March, I expected to get voted out third. I’d return home, laugh at my misadventure, and go about my life, casually trans in the same way that Zac Efron is casually Jewish.”
After the episode, Zeke also had some powerful thoughts about Varner’s actions and how they reinforce the worst trans stereotypes.
“But in calling me 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 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.”
The Survivor star later tweeted several moving thoughts to inspire positivity and acceptance.
If you have the chance, please take time to read Zeke’s full column HERE.