Uproar After Transgender Contestant Outed On Survivor, But Is CBS Also To Blame?


Last night an outing of a “Survivor” cast member on television has sparked outrage from many.

Zeke Smith, (above right) who appeared on back-to-back seasons of the reality series, was revealed to be a transgender man by fellow contestant Jeff Varner in an episode that aired Wednesday night.

Varner, shared the information during an emotional Tribal Council on “Survivor: Game Changers.”

“Why haven’t you told anyone you’re transgender?” Varner asked Smith.

Other contestants reacted negatively, telling Varner that was personal and he shouldn’t have said it. Varner insisted he did it to show that Smith was deceptive during the game.

Smith responded by explaining that he didn’t want to be labeled “the trans ‘Survivor’ player.”

“I wanted to be Zeke the ‘Survivor’ player,” Smith said.

While what Varner did was insensitive and stupid, is Survivor also at fault here for setting this whole situation up from the beginning as a show stunt?

After all Survivor obviously knew that Zeke was transgender before the show began and has been know to cast “contestants” who had “secrets” And Smith who was cast last years Millennials vs. Gen X  never made it past the final nine before being booted off and was not a “Survivor Game Changer” as this season credits its cast as. Out of all the players from the past 30+ seasons and hundreds of contestants why did Survivor ask Zeke Smith to come back? Could it be because he didn’t last long enough last season for his “secret” to be exposed?

What Jeff Varner did was despicable and he has apologized, But perhaps he is not the only one who should apologize.

Maybe Jeff Probst, Survivor, and CBS also needs to apologize for this bit of manipulative stunt casting to help its ratings that have been sinking steadily season after season. 

It is “reality” television after all.

Will Kohler

Will Kohler is a noted LGBT historian, journalist and owner of Back2Stonewall.com. A longtime gay activist, Will fought on the front lines of the AIDS epidemic with ACT-UP and continues fighting today for LGBT acceptance and full equality. Will’s work has been referenced in notable media venues as MSNBC and BBC News, The Washington Post, The Daily Beast, Hollywood Reporter, and Raw Story,

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