An incident on Wednesday night’s installment of the CBS reality staple “Survivor” in which one of the competitors outed a fellow contestant as transgender has prompted criticism among LGBT activists and outrage on social media.
The incident played out during the show’s tribal council, which became one of the long-running series’ most emotional segments. (You can watch the clip below.) As contestant Jeff Varner fought to remain on the show, he outed fellow competitor Zeke Smith, citing “deception” by Smith in concealing his transgender status.
The move prompted an immediate rebuke of Varner by his fellow competitors along with host Jeff Probst, with Varner apologizing profusely before being booted from the show without a formal vote. In the aftermath, the LGBT rights group GLAAD published a critical response to Smith’s outing, and Smith penned a detailed guest column for The Hollywood Reporter about his “Survivor” experiences and how the incident has impacted his life.
“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,” said Nick Adams, director of GLAAD’s Transgender Media Program. “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.”
Smith, who is making his second “Survivor” appearance on this season’s “Survivor: Game Changers,” wrote in THR: “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.”
GLAAD noted in its piece that in the months since the episode was taped, its Transgender Media Program has worked with Smith and CBS to handle the response to the incident.
Here’s the clip, posted by CBS …