As it turns out, CBS worked with GLAAD, a media organization founded by LGBT people in the media, in the months leading up to the episode airing.
According to the organization, GLAAD’s Transgender Media Program worked with both Smith and CBS “for several months to ensure that when the episode aired Zeke would have the opportunity to speak for himself about his experience.”
“Zeke Smith, and transgender people like him, are not deceiving anyone by being their authentic selves, and it is dangerous and unacceptable to out a transgender person,” said Nick Adams, director of GLAAD’s Transgender Media Program, in a statement. “It is heartening, however, to see the strong support for Zeke from the other people in his tribe. Moments like this prove that when people from all walks of life get to know a transgender person, they accept us for who we are.”
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In the moments after being outed on camera, Smith, a 29-year-old Brooklyn-based asset manager, opened up about his transition — and what he hopes others might learn now that it has been revealed.
“Transitioning is a long process and a very difficult process,” he said. “There are people [in my life] who know, but then I sort of got to a point where I stopped telling people, because when people know that about you, that’s sort of who you are.”
“There are questions people ask, people want to know about your life and this and that,” he continued. “It sort of overwhelms everything else that they know about you.”
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Smith, who debuted on season 33 of the CBS show last fall and returned for the all-star season 34 in March, said he had been “fortunate” to play Survivor for as long as he had been playing it without having that label.
“I knew someone might pick up on it or it might be revealed, so I’m prepared to talk about it and to have it be part of my Survivor experience,” he said, though he admitted the way it happened was “kind of crappy.”
“I’m certainly not someone who should be a role model for anybody else,” he added with a laugh. “But maybe there’s someone who’s a Survivor fan and me being out on the show helps him or helps her or helps someone else. So maybe this will lead to a greater good.”
Survivor airs Wednesdays (8 p.m. ET) on CBS.