Zeke Smith On 'Survivor' Was Outed As Transgender On TV — But His Is The Only Story We Should Be Listening To
If you haven't seen the video of Zeke Smith being outed on Survivor: Game Changers, it's shocking. Smith had previously been a contestant on season 33 of the show and, during that season and this one, presenting as an out gay man — a conscious decision on his part. But fellow contestant Jeff Varner made a life-changing decision for Smith, in anger, during the heat of the game. Prefacing it with the ominous, "There is deception on levels here that these guys don't understand," he went on to out Smith as transgender not only to his fellow contestants, but to the country. Bustle reached out to both Smith and Varner, and will update this article if we receive a reply.
There are so many problems with this behavior. There's the accusatory language, the undercutting of Smith's agency, but also the basic rhetoric linking not disclosing your gender history — and even the act of being transgender — with 'deceit'. Like it's sordid, hidden, or something you should ashamedly admit to rather than just are. And it's bullsh*t.
"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," Nick Adams, Director of GLAAD's Transgender Media Program said in a statement. "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."
I was struck by the same thing when watching the video — the response of the other contestants. Not the people pointing out that that is personal information that has nothing to do with the game (though they're certainly right). It's the contestants saying, "That's not deception." Exactly. There is nothing deceitful about being transgender, just like there is nothing deceitful about not disclosing your gender history.
The other heartening news was that GLAAD's Transgender Media Program worked with Smith and with CBS to make sure that Smith was able to share his own story how he wanted to. So if you're interested in the story, I encourage you to read it from Smith.
You can also read Varner's apology admitting that outing someone is assault or listen to his interview with Entertainment Weekly explaining how he's in therapy, that he's "amazed and moved" by Smith's continual forgiveness of him. But even better than those options, is listening to Smith himself and giving him back the platform that Varner took away.
You can follow him on Twitter and Instagram or read his own story in the Hollywood Reporter or People, where he explains why he hadn't talked about his gender history on the show and how he felt about it. Because really, it's his story to tell.