Zeke Smith, 29, was shockingly outed to the world as transgender by Jeff Varner, 50, during Survivor‘s tribal council on April 12. One day after his secret was broadcast on national television, Caitlyn Jenner, 67, took to social media to defend the contestant to the fullest. “@zekerchief Being trans in the public eye is no joke, but you did good buddy,” the I Am Cait star wrote via Twitter. “You made us proud.” Even though Jeff was trying to show the group how Zeke was “deceitful,” the latter was pleased that his tribe mates blasted Jeff for his actions.
Jeff was voted off and sent home, but the Brooklyn-based asset manager still wonders if his former cast mate, who is openly gay, is also a bit trasphobic. “It’s tough with Varner,” Zeke tells PEOPLE. “I don’t think he hates trans people. I just think he has a lot of misconceptions. I think if he wants to be an ally to trans people, he has a long way to go. Trans people are a highly vulnerable population. We’re attacked a lot and I expected a lot more from Varner.”
“I didn’t want to be the first transgender Survivor star,” Zeke explained. He made his debut on season 33 as a gay, happy man, and was brought back on season 34. Although he didn’t discuss the topic on the island, he admitted in his new interview that while he did tell producers that he was transgender during his audition. He revealed, “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.”
As a LGBT ally himself, Jeff later apologized for outing Zeke with an emotional letter. “Yep. I did that. And I offer my deepest, most heart-felt apologies to Zeke Smith, his friends and life allies, his family and to all those who my mistake hurt and offended,” he wrote in a statement on Twitter.
HollywoodLifers, are you glad to see Caitlyn showing support to Zeke? Tell us!