Jeff Varner apologizes for outing Zeke Smith as transgender on 'Survivor'

Brunilde Fioravanti
Aprile 16, 2017

"Survivor" contestant Zeke Smith was outed as transgender by fellow competitor Jeff Varner on Wednesday night's episode of the CBS reality competition.

Controversy duly ensued among the contestants as to the ethics of Varner's behavior were discussed.

"After the tribal council scene in last night's Survivor was filmed, we consulted with Zeke Smith and with GLAAD in advance of the broadcast, including the issue of how Zeke would tell his story after the episode aired", CBS said in a statement. "There's more", he said, turning his attention to Smith. "I recklessly revealed something I mistakenly believed everyone already knew". I give him all the space in the world to do that.

The negative reaction to Varner's move was so strong that Probst dispensed with the usual secret Tribal Council vote and asked the other cast members whether Varner was their pick to go home. Fellow contestant Sarah Lacina said that while she comes "from a very conservative" background that's "not very diverse", she grew to "love [Zeke] so much" - and that won't change. When he left the business in 2014, he became "loud and proud", he said.

"That night was a nightmare, and having to sit and ponder it for 10 months has been the worst part of it all, and watching it was even more so, but not for me, for Zeke", he continued. "And it was in that conversation that I realized that healing could begin for me, because I just needed to hear his voice, I needed to know that he was safe, and that he was OK, and that he forgave me", Varner explained.

"It reveals the ability to deceive".

Speaking to Probst, Varner seemed to grasp that he'd made an awful mistake, and attempted to backtrack. "We discriminate against ourselves I think a lot more than a lot of people do out there", he confessed. That's a giant leap of logic. It was clear who had to leave the island. "The LGBT community has enough to fight against today, we don't need to be fighting against each other".

"A person's gender history is private information and it is up to them, and only them, when, how, and to whom they choose to disclose that information", he wrote.

"I got to a point where I stopped telling people because when people know that about you, that's sort of who you are", Smith said. It sort of overwhelms everything else that they know about you ...

"Zeke and I spoke in October and just hearing his voice was comforting, hearing his forgiveness was comforting, hearing that he believed both he and I were victims in some way was comforting", he shared - though in a piece for The Hollywood Reporter, Smith said he still had trouble forgiving Varner.

Horrified viewers took to social media, echoing the sentiments of those on the show.

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