There was a huge shock during last night's episode of Survivor, but not due to crazy twist or a contestant getting voted off.
The controversial moment came during episode's tribal council ceremony where contestants vote for the person they want to see leave the show. Jeff Varner told rival and fellow contestant Zeke Smith that "there is deception here." Varner, a gay man, addressed the show's host, Jeff Probst, saying, there was "deception on levels, Jeff, that these guys don't even understand," before turning to back to Smith to ask, "Why haven't you told anyone you're transgender?"
The comment elicited criticism not only from fellow Survivor contestants during the taping, but in real life once the episode aired. Smith pre-wrote a column for The Hollywood Reporter expressing his feelings on the way in which he was outed. See a selection of quotes below:
"I’m not wild about you knowing that I’m trans. An odd sentiment, I realize, for someone who signed up for two seasons of the CBS reality giant, Survivor. See, when I got on a plane to Fiji last March, I expected to get voted out third. I’d return home, laugh at my misadventure, and go about my life, casually trans in the same way that Zac Efron is casually Jewish...
"In calling me 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 y’all don’t understand,' Varner is saying that I’m not really a man 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."
Varner wrote a public apology where he said "outing someone is assault." You can read the statement via Twitter:
Varner has since been condemned by GLAAD with the LGBTQ rights organization working with CBS and Smith to have the proper responses in place for the episode airing. CBS has not publicly commented on the matter despite some saying the moment never should have aired in the first place.
What we can all take comfort in is that despite the disgusting "tactic," Varner was still sent home showing that no matter how desperate your evil scheme may be, good wins in the end.
Make yourself a little more knowledgable about trans people in a special segment of "What Not to Ask a Trans Woman" from Transcendent: