Players, fans support Survivor contestant who was outed as transgender on show

Zeke Smith on "Survivor: Game Changers." Photo: CBS

The Survivor tribal council is often an emotional experience for the contestants, but on Wednesday’s episode of Survivor: Game Changers, the emotion went far beyond the game.

At tribal council, contestant Jeff Varner was worried about being voted out, and in his attempt to paint another contestant, Zeke Smith, as deceptive, Varner announced to the tribe that Smith is transgender.

The fellow tribe members were visibly distressed and expressed their shock that Varner would reveal such a personal matter about someone else.

Smith had been out as gay on the show — as was Varner — but Smith had never told the Survivors or the millions of fans who watch the show he is transgender.

Smith remained calm through the tribal council discussion and explained how although he was originally out about being transgender, it isn’t something he makes public now because he wants people to just see him as “Zeke” and not “the transgender Survivor player.”

While Varner first tried to explain what he did, he changed his tune and expressed remorse after being faced with nothing but disgust at his actions.

Host Jeff Probst ended the tribal council by asking if the tribe knew whom they would vote for. The tribe agreed to send Varner home without an official vote, a rarity on the show.

Smith stood strong through it all, even hugging Varner as he left.

Fans reacted to the scene on social media, including former contestants who tweeted words of support for Smith:

Smith even added his own thoughts after the episode aired:

Varner tweeted a statement of his own, apologizing for what he did and explained how “outing someone is assault.”