A few weeks ago, Survivor fans were shocked as they watched contestant Jeff Varner out fellow contestant Zeke Smith for being transgender as a last ditch effort to save himself from being eliminated from the game. Immediately following the highly unnecessary outing, Smith told his fellow contestants, “One of the reasons I didn’t want to lead with that is because I didn’t want to be like, the trans Survivor player, I wanted to be Zeke the Survivor player.”
While Varner was immediately eliminated without a formal vote, Zeke still faced the reality of being outed on television, and — since episodes air well after filming — he was forced to sit with anxiety about it for months.
On the most recent episode, Zeke was voted off, and now he’s opening up about his experience on the show. He revealed to Us Weekly that he was prepared to be ostracized and have his life invaded after the episode aired, but he only received an outpouring of support.
Smith said that being on Survivor and the experiences he went through while on the show taught him to be more fearless. He revealed, “I sort of approach the world with a lot of fear. I was really afraid to go after what I wanted in life because I thought it might be hard or I thought I might fail. I learned to take big swings, not just in the game of Survivor, but in my real life. I learned to not be afraid and to trust myself.”
While Smith was obviously disappointed to not win the game, he was satisfied for the reason he was eliminated — he was playing Survivor.
Since his unnecessary outing, Smith has shown nothing but grace. While losing a competitive game like Survivor is disappointing we’re being on the show a second time around help Smith become more fearless.