Zeke Smith Says Survivor Gave Him "Unprecedented Autonomy" in How His Outing Was Handled

Find out what he said happened behind the scenes

By Chris Harnick Apr 13, 2017 8:20 PMTags

Survivor: Game Changers' Zeke Smith stopped by The Talk to share his side of the outing story. On the Wednesday, April 12 episode of the CBS reality series, fellow contestants Jeff Varner revealed to everybody present at the Tribal Council (and at home) that Zeke is transgender.

"It didn't quite hit until I looked at [Survivor host] Jeff Probst and Jeff Probst looked away from the tribe and he never takes the tribe out of his eyesight," Zeke explained to The Talk hosts. "And that's what signaled to me the worst had happened... there was this primal instinct in me that just said 'run,' but I knew I couldn't run because I came to Survivor to confront great challenges."

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Zeke said he took a moment to compose myself and was preparing to speak up about why what Jeff did to him was wrong, but he didn't need to.

"My tribemates rose up and defended me loudly and passionately," he told hosts Sharon Osbourne, Julie Chen, Sara Gilbert, Aisha Tyler and Sheryl Underwood.

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Jeffrey Neira/CBS Entertainment

When he first applied for the competition series he said he didn't reveal he was transgender, that came later as his relationship with producers evolved. Zeke said CBS and producers basically gave him full control over his story after the outing at Tribal Council.

"I've been granted unprecedented autonomy in how I want to tell my story," he assured everyone. "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...I was really proud of how I responded...I also thought that by showing what happened maybe it wouldn't happen to someone else and something good could come of it."

During the Tribal Council, Jeff said, "There is deception here. Deceptions on levels Jeff that these guys don't even understand.

"Why haven't you told anyone that you're transgender?" he asked Zeke.

"I didn't want to be the "trans" Survivor player and I wanted to be Zeke the Survivor player," Zeke said on the reality competition series after Jeff's comments. "I don't even need a cheerleader because I know I can do whatever I want to do."

Zeke said he knew it was up to him whether the situation devolved into a screaming match. "I was determined to milk something positive out of that moment," he said.

The Talk airs weekdays at 2 p.m. on CBS.