‘Survivor’ Contestant Fired From Job After Transgender Outing Controversy

Jeff Varner Survivor Gamechangers
Courtesy of CBS

Jeff Varner, the “Survivor” contestant who made headlines for outing a fellow contestant as transgender, was fired from his job as a real estate agent in North Carolina this week as a result of the incident.

The News & Record newspaper of Greensboro reported on Thursday that Varner was let go from his job as an agent for South Carolina-based Allen Tate Real Estate following the April 12 airing of the “Survivor” episode, which was shot last year in Fiji.

During the closing tribal council sequence, Varner disclosed that fellow contestant Zeke Smith is a transgender male, a move seen as a bid to gain advantage in the elimination competition. The tribal council wound up voting Varner off the show. After the airing, the incident sparked an online backlash against Varner and much discussion about the ethics of outing another person.

Varner, who is gay, apologized to Smith on the show and has repeatedly apologized in numerous interviews this week.

The News and Record reported Varner was told he was fired because he was “in the middle of a news story that we don’t want anything to do with.”

North Carolina has been in the center of a transgender rights struggle after the state last year passed a law that banned cities from allowing transgender people to use public restrooms of the gender with which they identify. The move generated a swift response, with a slew of major corporations and organizations such as the NBA and NCAA pulling business out of the state. The law was repealed late last month.


Zeke Smith Survivor

‘Survivor’ Contestant Zeke Smith: ‘I’m Not Ashamed of Being Trans’ (Updated)

Some observers said there was a silver lining to the “Survivor” incident in that it offered viewers the chance to see Smith embraced by his fellow “Survivor” castaways.

“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.”

(Pictured: Jeff Varner)

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  1. David says:

    i don’t get it, is he a woman that feels he is a man or is he a man that feels he is a woman? What makes that person transgender?

  2. Tonka says:

    Trash personified. Is this what Survivor has come to? How the HELL could those two POSSIBLY survive on a deserted Island? But it’s no longer about that, is it? This is the final straw for me. I don’t need to be bombarded by this in my leisure time. I have watched almost every episode of survivor since Rudy called Richard Hatch a queer – great stuff! In recent times the constant homosexual bandwagon has gotten too much to bear. Sadly, not because I feel anything for either of those two… whatever you want to call them, not at all, it is because I am sick and tired of this constant barrage of left wing doctrine in my life. Enough already! I will never watch survivor ever again in protest against homosexuality, which should remain in the closet, moreover, left wing dogma.

  3. James Brigham (Bigg) Bunyon says:

    If these people are so sure of themselves and so confident in their right to make their own personal decision about what sex they are, why is this problem with everybody knowing? Maybe because his circumstances seemed like cheating? Maybe because s/he is just pretending? Makes little sense to me, but if I were proud of myself for some act or decision, I’d not care if people knew. In fact, the “normal” reaction is to brag a little when you make some monumental, positive move. Give me a break, this is a just a typical entertainment industry pant load and wierdo display.

    • The Truth says:

      It doesn’t matter whether you’d care about public awareness of your gender identity or not. It’s not about you. Another person’s sexual orientation or gender identity is not your’s or anyone else’s business. And if you think you know what a “normal reaction” is, consider this: When you suggest that being a transgender contestant on Survivor is somehow cheating or that a transgender person may be “just pretending,” any normal person’s reaction is to dismiss you as a dense dickhead.

  4. Tender Puppy! says:

    It’s a shame he wasn’t more sympathetic, being a gay man himself. Then again, Varner grew up in a different generation and was closeted for much of his own life. In fact, I recall that he never once mentioned his sexuality during his original Season 2, Australian Outback, even though I think Alicia and Elisabeth and that pedo Skupin all knew off-camera. Whether or not he told them privately and asked producers to exclude that because he hadn’t come out yet; or they assumed before he officially came out, I don’t know. You would think this would give him more sensitivity regarding the coming out process. But I guess him being a southerner, and a Gen-Xer, he was a little more old school. Zeke has forgiven him personally, according to interviews, as have the other cast members and they’re all still friends. Varner was allegedly suicidal after the incident, or at least severely depressed. So this firing worries me that it might lead him to drastic measures. Hopefully, he can get some help if these allegations by fellow Survivor fans/followers are indeed true.

  5. JohnSmart says:

    Good lord, Survivor is still on television???

  6. Joyce Edwards says:

    Good, Varner was a pig.

  7. James pierce says:

    Yea. Good. Screw him. He no good. He thought he demean someone to his benefit. He got what he deserved.

  8. Wow, a bunch of idiotic GREEDY people (who thankfully found a job they could get rich at AND still be stupid) are now the ethical standard.

    What TOTAL BS. Keeping secrets is what BEGS for them to be exposed.

    Time for HIDDEN people to STAND UP or SHUT UP!


    I am not hiding.

    • Jay says:

      If you are marginalized and different, as you claim, you would understand how Zeke felt. People have the right to come out when and how they pleased. Coming out to friends and family is completely different from being outed on a tv show that will be viewed by millions of strangers. Varner took the right and control out of Zeke’s hands and made it about himself in a pathetic attempt to save his own ass. As a transman, I can tell you that, like Zeke, I want to be known for who I am and not a label that strangers can judge me by. It was nobody’s business and had absolutely nothing to do with Survivor or his game play. I don’t know if Varner should have been fired, but that was the choice of his employer.

  9. heyitsron says:

    The NC realtor made the correct move. No business needs to be dragged into this no-win event when your brand stands to suffer. But, Variety staff must not have watched the show. The Tribal Council did not vote Varner off. Jeff voted him off, himself, and stated he was acting on what he believed to be the wish of others. And then Jeff stated “no one’s going home tonight.” Not entirely correct. The “others” did not vote and had no official vote in this. But most if not all appeared to be visibly upset over Varner’s move.

    • Jeff says:

      Actually they did vote, Jeff asked the contestants who they were going to vote for and they all said they were going to vote for Varner so technically there was a vote. The tribe did speak and he was sent home.

  10. Christopher says:

    So somebody in North Carolina actually did the right thing for a change.

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