I don't watch reality television. I think I accidentally saw about a minute of Survivor last night before I found the remote and switched to PBS' Nature.
As far as I can tell, reality shows like Survivor are a cess pit of mean people displaying their meanness to win a stupid game...and the money and "prestige" that our warped economic environment deems that to be worth.
But the news this morning is all over the fail that Survivor exposed to the public yesterday evening when openly gay contestant Jeff Varner, in an attempt to avoid being voted off the island, told the world that contestant Zeke Smith was a transgender man.
A person's gender history is private information and it is up to them, and only them, when, how, and to whom they choose to disclose that information. Keeping your gender history private is not the same as a gay person being 'in the closet.' The only people who need to know are medical professionals and naked fun time friends.
Varner's "strategic decision" gained him nothing but the loss of whatever respect he had from his fellow contestants.
Yep. I did that. And I offer my deepest, most heart-felt apologies to Zeke Smith, his friends and life allies, his family and to all those who my mistake hurt and offended," the 50-year-old player wrote. I recklessly revealed something I mistakenly believed everyone already knew. I was wrong and make no excuses for it. I own responsibility in what is the worst decision of my life.
Let me be clear, outing someone is assault. 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. I am profoundly sorry. Zeke is a wonderful man and I will forever be amazed and inspired by his forgiveness and compassion. I thank God for that and the gift of being an example as to why you should never do what I did.
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. It is heartening, however, to see the strong support for Zeke from the other people in his tribe. 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.
--Nick Adams, GLAAD
I looked to Varner, now the one hunched and quivering, and contemplated the backlash he would face. When he said what he said, he changed both of our lives forever. When he pulled me in for a hug, I felt compelled to reciprocate, both as a sign that I was willing to forgive him and that the shots he had fired missed.
In 34 seasons of Survivor, I have rarely, if ever, personally commented on what is said or done in the game. But this is a unique situation that falls outside the normal boundaries. 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. I think the response from the tribe, as it so often does, mirrors what the vast majority of society will feel. You just don’t do that to someone.
It was one of the most surreal moments I’ve ever encountered on the show. From the outside, it looked and sounded like a regular Tribal Council, but in reality, it was one of the most raw and painful studies of human behavior that has ever happened on Survivor.
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. I just wanted to be known for my game.
I didn't want to be "the transgender survivor," I wanted to be "Zeke, the survivor."
When you tell people you’re trans, you get two reactions: Either they look at you funny and pull back, or they go, ‘Aww, that must be so hard.’ I’m a goofy, fun-loving guy, so neither of those reactions work well for me
I think he hoped others would believe that trans people are dangerous and fraudulent. 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.
It’s important people see he lost that fight. The message should be clear that hate will always lose.