LGBT rights group says Jeff Varner revealing Zeke Smith as transgender on reality TV show was dangerous and unacceptable
A contestant on US reality TV show Survivor has been outed as transgender by a fellow competitor,prompting online criticism and condemnation by a major LGBT rights group.
Jeff Varner made accusations of a deception being carried out by Zeke Smith before revealing that Smith was transgender on the Wednesday night episode. Varner was immediately criticised by other contestants. He repeatedly apologised, but was voted out of the competition.
In the episode, which was taped last year, Smith explained that he didnt mention that he was transgender because he didnt want to be known as the trans Survivor player. I wanted to be Zeke the Survivor player.
On the contrary, he now says appearing on Survivor was a step toward becoming the man he wants to be. He writes in the Hollywood Reporter that by calling him deceptive, Varner invoked one of the most odious stereotypes of transgender people, a stereotype that is often used as an excuse for violence and even murder.
In proclaiming Zeke is not the guy you think he is and that there is deception on levels yall dont understand, Varner is saying that Im not really a man, Smith continues, and that simply living as my authentic self is a nefarious trick. In reality, by being Zeke the dude, I am being my most honest self as is every other transgender person going about their daily lives.
In a statement on Thursday, CBS said: We have always been guided by the principle that this is his [Smiths] story to tell, and it remains so.
The network also said it had respect for how Jeff Varner expressed remorse for his mistake on the episode and in interviews.
In the end, we believe this episode, accompanied by Zekes own remarkable writing and speaking on the subject, has provided an unexpected but important dialogue about acceptance and treating transgender people with respect, CBS said.
The Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (Glaad) criticised the outing of Smith. Zeke Smith, and transgender people like him, are not deceiving anyone by being their authentic selves, said Nick Adams, director of Glaads transgender media program. It is dangerous and unacceptable to out a transgender person.
Adams noted the show of support Smith had received since the episodes airing.
Moments like this prove that when people from all walks of life get to know a transgender person, they accept us for who we are, he said.
Glaad said it worked with Smith and CBS for several months to prepare Smith for the publicity blitz that would accompany the episodes airing.
Survivor host Jeff Probst added to the opprobrium against Varner. I cannot imagine anyone thinking what was done to Zeke was OK on any level, under any circumstances, and certainly not simply because there was a million dollars on the line, he told Entertainment Weekly. You just dont do that to someone.
Varner calls his actions a mistake and said he was deeply saddened.
Let me be clear, outing someone is assault, he said in a tweet. It robs a strong, courageous person of their power and protection and opens them up to discrimination and danger. It can leave scars that haunt for a lifetime.