'Survivor' Castaway Zeke Smith Outed as Transgender by Fellow Contestant Jeff Varner During Tribal Council

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Zeke Smith is trying to make the best of the situation.
The two-time Survivor player was outed as transgender by fellow tribe member Jeff Varner during tribal council on Wednesday's episode of Game Changers.
Varner, who told host Jeff Probst that he felt he was going home earlier in the tribal council, decided to reveal one last piece of information in the hopes of saving himself.
"There is deception here. Deceptions on levels, Jeff, that these guys don't even understand," Varner said, looking at Smith. "Why haven't you told anyone that you're transgender?"
While Smith was open about his sexuality during his last appearance on the show, Survivor: Millenials vs. Gen X, and even inspired another contestant, Bret, to come out to him on the show, the transgender reveal was a shock to his tribe -- and something Smith hoped wouldn't come to light.
Instead of turning on Smith, however, the Nuku tribe chastised Varner for outing the Brooklyn native on national television.
"I argue for the rights of transgender people every day in the state of North Carolina," Varner shared, trying to defend himself. "I would never say or do anything to hurt anyone here. Jeff [Probst], I'm arguing for my life. I feel like I've got to throw everything at the wall."
Varner's pleas couldn't save him, however, and he was sent home unanimously by his tribe -- who didn't even have to cast their votes on paper.
Photo: CBS
Though Smith was visibly upset about being outed, he left Varner with a hug, and said that he hopes the situation will be a learning experience for others.
"Maybe there's someone who is a Survivor fan, and me being outed on the show helps him or helps her or someone else, and so maybe this will lead to a greater good," he explained.
Smith joined legions of outraged Survivor fans on Twitter after the episode, writing: "We cannot control the hazards we face, we can only control how we respond. Love each other. #Survivor #Zekevivor."
"To learn how to be a better ally to trans people, click the link below. *Spoiler alert* Don't out people," he tweeted alongside a link to GLAAD's website.
Smith also opened up about the situation to People, telling the magazine that he didn't plan on sharing that he was transgender, because he didn't "want to be the ‘first transgender Survivor contestant.'" 
"I’m not ashamed of being trans, but I didn’t want that to be my story," he admitted. "I just wanted to go out on an adventure and play a great game. I just wanted to be known for my game." The 28-year-old asset manager also opened up about how his personal journey ultimately led him to the reality show. 
"My confidence was obliterated, and I was afraid to dream," said Smith, who was raised in Oklahoma, and transitioned while studying religion at Harvard. "I realized I needed to take on a big challenge to become the man I wanted to be. For some reason, that was Survivor."
"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.’ I’m a goofy, fun-loving guy, so neither of those reactions work well for me," he explained of why he wasn't ready to share the news with his tribemates, adding that he thinks Varner's outing him was an attempt to paint him as "deceitful."
"I think he hoped others would believe that trans people are dangerous and fraudulent. That reasoning is infinitely worse than him outing me because it’s the same one used to discriminate against, attack and murder trans people," Smith added. "What’s great is that nobody bought it."
At the end of the day, Smith said, "it’s important people see he lost that fight. The message should be clear that hate will always lose." Varner also took to social media after the episode aired to offer his apologies to Smith, writing: "I recklessly revealed something I mistakenly believed everyone already knew. I was wrong and make no excuses for it. I own responsibility in what is the worst decision of my life." "Let me be clear, outing someone is assault," he continued. "It robs a strong, courageous person of their power and protection and opens them up to discrimination and danger. Zeke is a wonderful man and I will forever be amazed and inspired by his forgiveness and compassion. I thank God for that and the gift of being an example as to why you should never do what I did."
Survivor airs Wednesdays at 8 p.m. ET/PT on CBS. Check back to ETonline on Thursday to see our interview with Varner.
Meanwhile, Probst also responded to the incident. Here's his reaction: