‘Survivor’ Contestant Outed As Transgender On The Show


Warning: Spoilers for tonight’s episode of US Survivor

A Survivor contestant has been dramatically removed from the US version of reality show Survivor after outing one of his fellow contestants as transgender.

The current season is the long-running reality show’s 34th and a group of former contestants have returned, including Jeff Varner and Zeke Smith, who both identify as gay and had formed a close friendship as they each competed for the show’s prize of $1 million.

“I didn’t want to be the ‘first transgender Survivor contestant,’” Zeke explained to People Magazine.

“I’m not ashamed of being trans, but I didn’t want that to be my story. I just wanted to go out on an adventure and play a great game.”

But that was made impossible for Zeke at Tribal Council in the show’s most recent episode, when Jeff revealed Zeke’s trans status to try and portray Smith as untrustworthy.

Jeff said, “There is deception here. Deceptions on levels that these guys don’t even understand,” before turning to Zeke and asking, “Why haven’t you told anyone that you’re transgender?”

Fellow tribe members expressed outrage, and he explained he “would never say or do anything to hurt anyone here” and that he was arguing for his life in the game, but the show’s host Jeff Probst told Varner he was leaving the show.

“We don’t need to vote, just grab your torch,” Probst said.

After the show, Varner broke down in tears as he realised his mistake.

“Nobody on this planet should do what I did tonight — ever. I am so sorry to anybody I offended, especially Zeke, and his family and his friends. I can’t talk. I’m sorry,” he said.

He tweeted a longer apology when the episode aired in the US.

LGBTI advocacy group GLAAD said they worked with Zeke and the show’s network CBS “for several months” to ensure that when the episode aired “Zeke would have the opportunity to speak for himself about his experience.”

Zeke told People: “I think he hoped others would believe that trans people are fraudulent. What’s great is that nobody bought it.

“It’s important people see he lost that fight. The message should be clear that hate will always lose.”

Jeff Probst told Entertainment Weekly he had to take decisive action when the events unfolded at the Tribal Council.

“In 34 seasons of Survivor, I have rarely, if ever, personally commented on what is said or done in the game,” he said.

“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.”

(Photo by CBS)