Trans Contestant Outed On “Survivor”: “I Didn’t Want That To Be My Story”

"I didn't want to be the ‘first transgender "Survivor" contestant,'" says Zeke Smith.

Tonight on Survivor, a castaway revealed that a tribe member was a transgender man.

Zeke Smith, 29, has appeared on two seasons of Survivor—”Millennials vs. Gen X” and the current “Game Changers.” But both times he chose not to disclose his gender identity.

survivor zeke smith

“I didn’t want to be the ‘first transgender Survivor contestant,’” Smith told People. “I’m not ashamed of being trans, but I didn’t want that to be my story. I just wanted to go out on an adventure and play a great game.”

But that option was taken away at tribal council, when fellow contestant Jeff Varner revealed his trans status in an attempt to portray Smith as untrustworthy.

“There is deception here,” Varner, who was up for elimination, said. “Deceptions on levels, Jeff, that these guys don’t even understand.” He then asked Smith, “Why haven’t you told anyone that you’re transgender?”

Other tribe members expressed their outrage at his outing Smith. Insisting he was a trans ally, Varner said, “I would never say or do anything to hurt anyone here… I’m arguing for my life. I feel like I’ve got to throw everything at the wall.”

Varner was voted off the island anyway, but it was a questionable choice for CBS to air the scene.

“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 of GLAAD, who worked with Smith and the network “to ensure that when the episode aired, Zeke would have the opportunity to speak for himself about his experience,” according to People.

Varner thought he’d get the others to believe trans people are “dangerous and fraudulent,” says Smith.

“That reasoning is infinitely worse than him outing me, because it’s the same one used to discriminate against, attack and murder trans people. What’s great is that nobody bought it.”

Smith praises his cast mates for standing with him and not Varner.

“It’s important people see he lost that fight,” says Smith. “The message should be clear that hate will always lose.”

A couple of flamers fiddling with their bamboos. #Survivor #GameChangers

A post shared by Zeke Smith (@zekerchief) on

Dan Avery is a writer-editor who focuses on culture, breaking news and LGBT rights. His work has appeared in Newsweek, The New York Times, Time Out New York, The Advocate and elsewhere.