Hannah Shapiro was a runner-up top top Survivor season 33: Millennials vs. Gen X. She"ll it is in recapping Survivor season 34: game Changers. Monitor Hannah top top Twitter 

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(Editor"s note: This post contains spoiler from episode six of Survivor: game Changers.)

At Survivor: game Changers" episode-six defect council, countless viewers watched Zeke Smith, a transgender man, being assaulted in the many personal, grotesque method imaginable under the guise that a game-show move. Do no mistake: What Jeff Varner does to Zeke — outing him together trans there is no his consent — is no slip of the tongue. It"s an attempt to humiliate him.

Varner walks right into tribal knowing he"s walking home. His reaction to a instance of distress to be to hurl his emotion of betrayal earlier at Zeke, who was previously a confidant. 

"I really favor you and also I expect we have the right to be friends," Varner speak Zeke in the start of the episode, ~ Zeke tells Varner he"s sincere around working with him.

But in ~ tribal, Varner do the efforts to to convince the people that Zeke"s identity as a trans guy is the greatest reason he"s to be deceptive.

"There is deception here," Varner claims at tribal. "Deception on levels these guys don"t even understand. There"s more. Why haven"t friend told anyone you"re transgender? What I"m showing is a deception."

Breaking under transgender stereotypes

I got to out to Nick Adams, manager of GLAAD"s Transgender Media Program, in bespeak to get a knowledgeable perspective on what just happened.

"Jeff Varner tried come use among the worst stereotypes around transgender people to save his very own skin at Tribal Council," Adams described. "He accused Zeke of gift deceptive and also lying come the the various other players ~ above the show because he didn"t instantly disclose the reality that he is transgender as soon as he started playing." 

Moreover, Adams said, "this idea that transgender civilization are just living their stays as their authentic selves are deceptive or lying or fooling people is one of the an essential misconceptions of that transgender people are that lead directly to the type of discrimination and also often violence versus us."

Zeke smith didn"t need to share his gender story

Full disclosure: Zeke is my friend. We played together on Survivor season 33: Millennials vs. Gen X. In order to understand the influence of this moment on my friend, girlfriend must understand something about Zeke. Zeke is among the most well-spoken and also capable males I know. He regularly teaches me around holding my own and not letting myself succumb to moment throughout the day. To watch him immobile for the moments that he is — "on an island of his own" — is jarring. Over there is a tangible pains there, a tangible humiliation. And also that is what I believe Varner supposed to do at tribal. Beyond any game-move excuse, Varner want to humiliate Zeke and make him feeling as dreadful as the did at that moment.

When Zeke and I starved on one island together, ns did not understand his sex history, and also it didn"t matter. Zeke always projected the utmost confidence, an practically unbreakable feeling of self and also drive. His toughness and ability to form relationships was among the countless reasons I saw him together a huge competitor. Despite our common dark feeling of humor, I witnessed Zeke together quite different from me. Ns was a panic-attack-prone, social-anxiety-laden nerd who didn"t constantly believe it s her to it is in capable. Zeke to be the summary of cool — anxiety-free and also confident. Zeke had bravado in every little thing he did in Fiji. He started fires, constructed shelters and also caught people immunity idols through ease. He was brave. Ns was not.

Zeke had actually every ideal on my season that Survivor no to share that he to be transgender, and also had every appropriate the next season to execute the same.

That"s why talking around your gender history is for this reason complicated, Adams defined to me.

"What regularly happens through transgender people is that as soon as you tell someone the you"re transgender, rather of being seen much more authentically, like once you disclose your sex-related orientation come someone, your identification is frequently questioned," Adams says. "And now every one of a sudden world want to recognize private details about past. And also may put an asterisk alongside name."


The reaction at the Nuku lack council

Each night throughout our season, Zeke and I would certainly wander down to the beach, cuddle in the sand and also plot exactly how we would eliminate all the other folks who were taking up an are at camp. Zeke and I have end up being even closer turn off the island. He"s among the most brilliant, hard-working, thoughtful, empathetic and also downright funny human being I have ever before met. That has come to be my person. 

While Zeke being transgender does color in his background for me, that doesn"t change the main point of ours friendship in the least. Crucial element that the tribal tonight was the incredible support Zeke found in his people mates. They refuse to buy what Varner was selling. Varner presented them through hateful rhetoric, lock responded with a firm present of love.

Understand that Zeke was still in a video game for a million dollars. He had to balance being attacked, calming his tribemates and maintaining his head every within this context. 

Zeke had the ability to be strong and articulate his thoughts in a way most wouldn"t it is in in his situation. In ~ the end of the episode, he says, "If metamorphosis is words of the episode, ns feel favor I"ve seen such a metamorphosis the myself, over the previous — ns think this particular day is work 52 the I"ve played Survivor. And also I don"t know that the scared child that struggle the mat in the marooning that 33 would be as calm together I am best now. Yet I have started 2 fires with just bamboo, I"ve winner challenges, I"ve been part of blindsides. I"ve done every kinds of stunner stuff and I to be a changed, stronger, far better man now than ns was then."

Zeke states that he"s uncertain of the title of "role model," yet it came to be clear the he"s someone many young civilization will look as much as after this moment.

Sarah Lacina, his allied on the show, was additionally especially brilliant. Sarah"s empathy turned an ugly moment right into a an effective message. 

I"m simply thankful that I gained to understand Zeke for that Zeke is. I"ve been v him for the last 18 days and also he"s super kick-ass. ... I"m native the midwest, ns come indigenous a very conservative background, it"s not very diverse as soon as it comes to a lot of gay and also lesbian and also transgender and things choose that therefore I"m no exposed to it as much as these human being are. And also the fact that I have the right to love this man so much. And it doesn"t readjust anything for me, provides me realize that I"ve grown vast as a person. Of food we desire to come away v the million dollars but the metamorphosis that I"ve also made together a person that ns didn"t realize until this minute is invaluable.

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There is no excuse because that what occurred tonight. Zeke, his friends, his family and the entire transgender community will feel the influence of what just aired because that years come come. In ~ tribal, Varner expose Zeke"s identification not simply to his tribemates, but to the country — the last illustration of Survivor reached nearly 9 million viewers. This 15-minute moment of tv becomes Zeke"s life.

Survivor is a heightened version of society. That highlights the ugliest parts of what we space as humans, but it additionally highlights the strength and love the emerges in horrible situations. This will certainly be a moment that will certainly be digested and also processed over the coming weeks. Over there is much to discuss. Yet for tonight: I"m proud that my ideal friend. I love him an extremely much.