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Survivor Contestant Zeke Smith Outed as Transgender, Called 'Deceptive'

Survivor Contestant Zeke Smith Outed as Transgender, Called 'Deceptive'

Survivor
Courtesy of CBS

"By being Zeke the dude, I am being my most honest self—as is every other transgender person going about their daily lives."

Zeke Smith, a Survivor cast member, was revealed to be a transgender man in an episode that aired Wednesday night. Fellow contestant Jeff Varner, who is gay, shared the information during Tribal Council on Survivor: Game Changers.

"Why haven't you told anyone you're transgender?" Varner asked Smith, eager to show contestants that Smith was a "deceptive" competitor. Smith responded, saying he didn't want to be labeled "the trans Survivor player," but simply "Zeke the Survivor player."

Though Varner attempted an apology, met with furious backlash from contestants who argued he shouldn't have revealed Smith's personal information, he was ultimately voted off the show. "Nobody has the right to out anybody," one competitor said; another told Varner that Smith's gender should've only been discussed "when he was comfortable discussing it."

This is Smith's second season on Survivor, having played in the previous season, Survivor: Millennials vs. Gen X. During both appearances, Smith has competed as an out gay man, but chose to not disclose his gender history to tribemates.

"I remember walking into Tribal Council that night," Smith told Hollywood Reporter. "I remember the smell of the kerosene in our torches. I remember the smug smirk on his face and the gleam in his eye when he turned to me and snarled, 'Why haven't you told anyone that you're transgender?'" He continued, "It's one thing to lie about someone sneaking off at night to search for hidden advantages. It is quite another to incense bigotry toward a marginalized minority."

In calling him deceptive, Smith said Varner "invoked one of the most odious stereotypes of transgender people, a stereotype that is often used as an excuse for violence and even murder." Such a label suggests Smith is not a real man, but "in reality, by being Zeke the dude, I am being my most honest self--as is every other transgender person going about their daily lives." he said.

"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."

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