Reaction has been mixed to last night’s episode of Survivor, where contestant Jeff Varner revealed that fellow contestant Zeke Smith was transgender. Varner, known to identify as gay, outed Smith during the Tribal Council segment of Wednesday night’s episode. In an effort to convince the other contestants of Smith’s deception as a reason for voting him off the island, he said to Smith, “Why haven’t you told anyone you’re transgender?” Smith responded, “I wanted to be Zeke the Survivor player,” and explained how he wanted to avoid garnering support solely because of his identification as a transgender person.
The other contestants on the show were harsh toward Varner following the reveal, calling his behavior inappropriate. After revealing this personal information, Varner was voted off the show. Social media also crushed Varner. One tweeter said, “Jeff Varner outing Zeke is so wrong. Took it to another level by connecting trans to deception. No strategic value whatsoever.” Jeff Probst, the host of Survivor, commented on the incident as well: “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.”
Varner tweeted out an apology following the airing of the episode, and recognized that his behavior was wholly disrespectful. “Outing someone is assault. It robs a strong, courageous person of their power and protection and opens them up to discrimination and danger. It can leave scars that haunt for a lifetime. I am profoundly sorry,” Varner wrote. Smith also wrote about the issue in a Hollywood Reporter column, stating that he wasn’t “wild” about someone else revealing he was transgender.