Zeke Smith outed as transgender on ‘Survivor’

Updated 8:35 PM EDT, Thu April 13, 2017
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CBS / 'Survivor'
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Story highlights

Smith was outed on Wednesday night's episode

Varner tweeted an apology

Editor’s Note: This story contains spoilers for Wednesday’s episode of “Survivor: Game Changers.”

(CNN) —  

The outing of a “Survivor” cast member on television has sparked outrage.

Zeke Smith, 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, who is gay, 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.

Varner apologized, but was voted off the show.

Trying to find love as a transgender man

Some fans were both stunned by the revelation and angered that Varner chose to go public with the information.

Contestants on the series compete for a major cash prize by surviving in remote locations and competing in extreme challenges.

“Survivor” host Jeff Probst told Entertainment Weekly that while he has rarely given his personal opinion in 34 seasons of the series, he could not remain quiet about this incident.

“I cannot imagine anyone thinking what was done to Zeke was okay on any level, under any circumstances, and certainly not simply because there was a million dollars on the line,” Probst said. “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.”

In a guest column written for The Hollywood Reporter, Smith said he wasn’t “wild” about viewers knowing he is transgender.