“Survivor” contestant Zeke Smith unintentionally became the first publicly transgender contestant on the reality series after his fellow competitor, Jeff Varner, outed him on Wednesday night’s episode of the CBS show.
The move was slammed by a major LGBT rights group, as well as the other contestants and the host of the show, Jeff Probst.
Varner said to Smith on the episode, “There is deception here. Deceptions on levels, Jeff, that these guys don’t even understand. Why haven’t you told anyone that you’re transgender?”
Varner backtracked after other players criticized him and he apologized, but he was sent home unanimously by his tribe.
“This is a unique situation that falls outside the normal boundaries,” host Probst told Entertainment Weekly on Wednesday. “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.”
Ultimately, Smith hugged it out with Varner and said he hoped he learned something from the experience.
“I found his ability to still find some level of humanity for someone who had just injured him so severely, maybe his crowning moment,” Probst commented.
Smith explained that he didn’t mention that he was transgendered because he didn’t want to be known as “the trans ‘Survivor’ player.”
He writes in The Hollywood Reporter that by calling him deceptive, Varner invoked “one of the most odious stereotypes of transgender people.”
GLAAD also criticized the outing of Smith. It says it worked with CBS and Smith on how to properly respond.
Varner calls his actions a “mistake” on Twitter and says he’s “deeply saddened.”