Zeke Smith, the ‘Survivor’ star who returned for this season of ‘Game Changers,’ just revealed that he’s transgender. In a new interview, the 29-year-old competitor details the moment a contestant outted him on national TV.
“I didn’t want to be the ‘first transgender Survivor star,'” Zeke Smith told PEOPLE in a new interview, published in their magazine. He made his debut on season 33 as a gay, happy man, and then was brought back on season 34, which is currently airing. He admitted in the new interview that while he did tell producers during his audition that he was transgender, he didn’t discuss it while on the island. “I’m not ashamed of being trans, but I didn’t want that to be my story. I just wanted to go out on an adventure and play a great game.”
However, that all changed while the cast was filming season 34 in Fiji. Zeke revealed in the magazine that someone — it turns out it was Jeff Varner — actually outed him while filming the April 12 episode, leaving him “shell-shocked.” Apparently, it was an attempt to make him look “deceitful.”
“I think he hoped others would believe that trans people are fraudulent. What’s great is that nobody bought it,” he said. “It’s important people see he lost that fight. The message should be clear that hate will always lose.” Zeke, who admitted his confidence was “obliterated” when he transitioned in college, also added he was “afraid to dream” afterward. “I realized I need to take on a big challenge to become the man I wanted to be. For some reason, that was Survivor.”
So, why didn’t he tell people about it? “When you tell people you’re trans, you get two reactions: Either they look at you funny and pull back, or they go, ‘Aww, that must be so hard,'” he said. “I’m a goofy, fun-loving guy, so neither of those reactions work well for me.”
You may remember that when Zeke first competed on Millennials Vs. Gen X, he was part of an important moment in another competitor’s life. Bret came out to him. “I was so touched that Bret would share this experience with me. Coming out on national television is a tremendous feat, and I feel very privileged that Bret chose me to accompany him on this journey,” he told TV Guide. “I am so proud of Bret. We’re still drinking buddies. Find us at a gay bar near you.”
HollywoodLifers, are you shocked to hear Zeke’s news?