Survivor’s Zeke Smith on Jeff Varner Outing Him as Transgender on TV: ‘I Really Struggle with Forgiving Him’

Zeke Smith has spent 8 months reckoning out how to pardon Jeff Varner for tour him as transgender on Wednesday’s intolerable and romantic partial of Survivor.


“It’s tough with Varner,” says Smith, who was interviewed exclusively for a stream emanate of PEOPLE. “I don’t consider he hates trans people. we only consider he has a lot of misconceptions about trans people. we consider if he wants to be an fan to trans people, he has a prolonged approach to go.”

Varner, 50, outed Smith, 29, during a genealogical legislature in attempts to paint a Brooklyn-based item manager as “deceitful” and therefore estimable of being voted out.

From left: Jeff Varner and Zeke Smith on Survivor.

“I consider we see this tactic used a lot by politicians to pass these supposed lavatory bills and we don’t consider it’s a fluke that he’s from North Carolina, where the many dangerous of these lavatory bills was passed,” says Smith.

“I consider a hardest partial is that if he was only some ignorant bigot, we could only write him off, though he’s not,” Smith says of Varner, who is gay. “He knows better. we consider given he’s gay, people give his difference a small some-more weight and we don’t know if he believes what he pronounced — though he unequivocally hoped others would.”

Varner and Smith with their tribemates on an progressing partial of Survivor.

But Smith is intensely gratified that his tribemates fast admonished Varner for his actions.

“Trans people are a rarely exposed population. We make easy targets. We’re pounded a lot and we approaching a lot some-more from Varner,” says Smith. “But we consider it’s so good that we see his horrible strategy rebuffed with such extraordinary adore and from such a different organisation that responds to him.”

  • For some-more from Smith — including how his basin during and after his transition desirous him to try-out for Survivor — collect adult a latest emanate of PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday

After being suspended by his clan on Wednesday’s episode, Varner approaches Smith and pulls him in for a hug. After observation a footage, Smith admits it was a tough impulse to watch.

“It was tough to see me cuddle him that night and tell him that it was going to be okay,” says Smith. “But it was critical for me to uncover that he had not quiet me; that whatever shots he meant to take during me, he missed; that we was a stronger male and he was a one weeping.”

Monty Brinton/CBS around Getty

In a months given that genealogical council, Smith says he’s spent a lot of time estimate how he feels about Varner.

“In a moment, it felt like a right thing to do was accept his reparation and contend that we’d find a approach to work it out, though we don’t unequivocally – we unequivocally onslaught with forgiving him each day,” says Smith. “I’ve had to consider a lot about what redemption is. Forgiveness is not forgetful what happened. It’s not excusing what happened. we don’t even consider redemption means we have to be his crony — and we don’t consider we ever will be his friend.”

“But we consider redemption is about wish – wish that he understands because what he did was wrong, wish that he doesn’t ever do something like this again and wish that whatever compelled him to give into his misfortune instincts in a dim impulse is resolved for him,” he continues. “I do wish him a best, we only consider we wish him a best from afar.”


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