The outing of Zeke Smith as transgender
on CBS' reality show Survivor has sparked outrage.
Jeff Varner, who is gay, outed his
fellow contestant during a Tribal Council on Survivor: Game
Changers. The episode aired Wednesday.
“Why haven't you told anyone you're
transgender?” Varner asked Smith, who explained that he didn't want
to be labeled the “trans Survivor player.” Varner was
voted off the show.
In an op-ed published in The
Hollywood Reporter, Smith said that he was “casually trans in
the same way that Zac Efron is casually Jewish.”
“A person's gender history is private
information and it is up to them, and only them, when, how, and to
whom they choose to disclose that information,” Smith
wrote. “Keeping your gender history private is not the same as
a gay person being 'in the closet.' The only people who need to know
are medical professionals and naked fun time friends.”
Host Jeff Probst criticized Smith's
“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,” Probst told Entertainment
Varner apologized in a tweet.
“I offer my deepest, most heart-felt
apologies to Zeke Smith, his friends and life allies, his family and
to all those who my mistake hurt and offended,” he messaged. “I
recklessly revealed something I mistakenly believed everyone already
knew. I was wrong and make no excuses for it. I own responsibility
in what is the worst decision of my life.”
“Let me be clear, outing someone is
assault. It robs a strong, courageous person of their power and
protection and opens them up to discrimination and danger,” he
Smith told PEOPLE that he believes
Varner has “a lot of misconceptions about trans people.” “I
think if he wants to be an ally to trans people, he has a long way to
go,” he said.