“Survivor” contestant Zeke Smith was outed as transgender in this week’s episode, but the 28-year-old asset manager is determined to not let his gender identity define how he competes on the long-running CBS reality series.
“I’m not ashamed of being trans, but I didn’t want that to be my story,” Smith told People Magazine. “I just wanted to go out on an adventure and play a great game. I just wanted to be known for my game.”
During tribal council, fellow contestant Jeff Varner revealed that Smith was transgender in an effort to prove that Smith was “deceitful.” The plan backfired, however, with Varner’s teammates unanimously voting him out of the game.
“I think he hoped others would believe that trans people are dangerous and fraudulent,” Smith said. “That reasoning is infinitely worse than him outing me because it’s the same one used to discriminate against, attack and murder trans people. 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.”
“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.”
UPDATE: April 13, 2:10 p.m. PT: CBS issued the following statement regarding the episode:
“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. This is his second consecutive season on ‘Survivor.’ From his first season through the current edition, we have always been guided by the principle that this is his story to tell, and it remains so.
We support how Jeff Probst and the producers handled a very sensitive situation and marvel at the grace Zeke exhibited under extraordinary circumstances. We also have respect for how Jeff Varner has expressed remorse for his mistake, both in the episode and in his subsequent dialogue with the media. In the end, we believe this episode, accompanied by Zeke’s own remarkable writing and speaking on the subject, has provided an unexpected but important dialogue about acceptance and treating transgender people with respect.”
Watch the “Survivor” tribal council here or below: