After being outed as transgender without his consent during Wednesday’s shocking tribal council on “Survivor: Game Changers”, Zeke Smith tells “The Talk” co-hosts in an exclusive interview he hopes his experience will serve as a lesson so another transgender person won’t be outed.
Smith, 28, recalled the moment his fellow contestant Jeff Varner revealed he was transgender, outing him to his tribe members and host Jeff Probst.
“All the sound faded away and there was this primal instinct in me which just said ‘run.’ But I knew I couldn’t run because I came to ‘Survivor’ to confront great challenges,” he says. “I took a moment to compose myself and I was really glad that Jeff [Probst] gave me that moment. I think it speaks to his abilities as a host. He allowed me to collect myself.”
He continues, “And when I came back I thought, ‘Alright, you’re going to have to fight. You’re going to have to explain why what happened was wrong. You’re going to have to defend yourself.’ But I didn’t need to. Because my tribemates rose up and defended me loudly and passionately.”
Smith reveals he was given the opportunity to craft the way the episode was handled for broadcast.
“I love ‘Survivor’. I was drawn to apply to ‘Survivor’ because of the integrity in the storytelling. When I first applied, I didn’t apply or tell casting that I was trans. That was developed later in our relationship,” he says, stating producers of the show were aware he was transgender. “I had a chat with Jeff Probst. We agreed if, how and when I’m going to talk about this part of my life, it’s going to be up to me. As opposed to being outed by a fellow contestant, as the exception.”
“In the aftermath of being outed, I’ve been granted unprecedented autonomy in how I wanted to tell my story. We started having conversations all the way back in Fiji nine months ago about the care with which this episode was going to be handled,” he adds.
“I was really proud of how I responded. I thought by showing what happened, maybe it wouldn’t happen to someone else and something good could come of it,” he says to applause.
“I knew it was up to me… we could all rise above and find something positive about it,” he says, describing the moments after tribal council.
“He [Varner] was crying and hunched and quivering and I knew what it was to feel pain alone at tribal council and I couldn’t help but hug him because I didn’t want him to feel the pain that I had,” Smith says, before revealing the dramatic events of the evening took a lighter turn when he discovered his wardrobe malfunction.
“I looked down and my fly was wide open,” he laughs. “I looked up and I said, ‘Probst! My fly’s been down this entire time’ and everybody laughed. That made me feel like I handled myself well because the world hadn’t ended, we could all still laugh.”