On the latest season of Survivor: Game Changers, veteran contestant Zeke Smith was outed as transgender by another contestant. The malicious reveal backfired, as the other castaways came together to collectively support him.
After the shocking news was revealed to millions of dedicated Survivor viewers, it was reported on by dozens of publications (i.e. CNN, New York Times, Slate, People magazine, and others). After tabloids forcibly outed director Lilly Wachowski last spring and harassed Caitlyn Jenner prior to her coming out in 2015, it has become evident that the media has a lot to learn about covering people who are transitioning while living in the spotlight.
Smith wrote a very poignant personal essay in The Hollywood Reporter, where he discusses his transition, the way Survivor has positively affected his life, the horrid night where he was outed, and the overall negative stigma society still attaches to transgender people. He writes:
After graduating and moving to New York, no one knew me or saw me as anything other than Zeke, which was tremendously liberating — my whole life, I desired my manhood to be known without question or qualification.
Many gay people consider coming out a moment of liberation, because sharing their sexual orientation with the world causes them to be seen more authentically. Often, the opposite is true for trans people. When we share our gender history, many see us less authentically — doubting, probing or denying our identities.
Smith perfectly encompasses the discrimination trans people continue to face, writing:
On the whole, the world doesn’t treat trans people with much kindness. Even those who aren’t outwardly hateful crinkle their noses at you. When enough people crinkle their noses at you, you begin to think you stink.
Read the essay in its entirety here.
Top photo: Instagram/@zekerchief
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