‘Survivor’ Fans Up in Arms After Contestant Outs Another as Transgender
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Outwit, outplay, outlast and, on last night’s (April 12) episode of Survivor, simply “out,” too.
History was made during the long-running CBS’ series most recent tribal council, during which out gay man and former news anchor Jeff Varner got the impression his head was on the game’s chopping block and that he was destined for elimination. Desperate to spare himself, Varner tried to paint his fellow competitors as duplicitous to deflect votes, and in a moment that horrified fans, he went as far as to out Zeke Smith as transgender and point to the behavior of withholding that information as deceptive.
Instantly, fellow members of the tribe began blasting Varner, and several cried. On the other hand — and encouragingly — each swooped in to support Smith, too.
“He crossed the line and realized he did,” Tai Trang, a gay man, said. “He just has to live with it…Whenever you want to come out, it’s your choice. Nobody should out anybody.”
“Just to see someone out somebody else is pretty painful.” Andrea Bohelke added. “That was really tough.”
And Smith, himself, explained why two seasons into his Survivor tenure, he still hadn’t been totally forthright about his identity.
“When people know that about you, that’s sort of who you are,” Smith said. “It sort of overwhelms anything else they know about you…I didn’t want to be the trans Survivor player.”
Ultimately, Varner conceded that he was wrong. And, in a first for the series, host Jeff Probst didn’t even commission a voting ceremony — he eliminated Varner on the spot after getting the unmistakable impression that the cast planned to vote for Varner, anyway.
— Jeff Probst (@JeffProbst) April 13, 2017
“It’s a game for a million dollars, and I clearly have made the wrong choice tonight,” Varner said.
Thankfully, the moment ultimately evolved into a heartening conversation about visibility, change and growth. Sarah Lacina, who hailed from a small, conservative town in Iowa, said she was strangely happy about the reveal, and that it helped her to realize how far she’d come from her past, which included judgment of the LGBT community.
Still, Varner couldn’t escape some (warranted) social media backlash.
Umm, the outing of Zeke on Survivor was rough to watch. That wasn't strategic, that was mean. #SurvivorGameChangers
— Garrett (@GarrettzGotIt) April 13, 2017
— Pauley Perrette (@PauleyP) April 13, 2017
Let's not erase that this was a GAY man that outed a trans man on national television. Queer people are transphobic offenders too #Survivor
— Eliel Cruz-Lopez (@elielcruz) April 13, 2017
Zeke is the strongest Survivor I've ever seen. That tribal was horrifying & moving & beautiful all in one #SurvivorGameChangers
— c b (@bobiakattack) April 13, 2017
— Jaclyn & Marcella (@cityofthefeels) April 13, 2017
— Novak (@SurvivorNovak) April 13, 2017
Stars Who Have Very Bravely Come Out: