Reflecting on his year as an out trans man in the public eye, Survivor contestant Zeke Smith has written an essay for The Hollywood Reporter. Though he was outed without consent by his fellow castaway Jeff Varner (I’d argue CBS had culpability there, too, since the network aired it), Smith says his post-show experience has been positive, especially from Survivor fans in his hometown of Oklahoma, where he was once “chased out with torches and pitchforks,” he writes.
Now I return as a bit of a favorite son. I take pictures with children in Bible school t-shirts.
I have not had a single negative encounter. Sometimes fans remember the incident. Sometimes they don’t. Heck, sometimes they don’t even remember my name. To them, I am the guy from Survivor, to whom they can ask their most burning question about their favorite show: What’s the deal with pooping?
The tone of Smith’s essay is measured and without whiff of the kind of self-righteousness some people adopt when they start to be taken seriously in public. He takes his responsibility as a cultural trans ambassador seriously (he says he has come to “delight” in this), but he stays practical, concluding his essay like this:
Transitioning is a massive obstacle that they are confronting at a very young age. They’re going to stumble and, at times, it will be messy. But if I can give them hope that there is light at the end of the tunnel, then just maybe they’ll get through it with their heads held high. Then they will have this experience to rely upon when they face challenges in the future. Should these boys look out in the world today and not see a place for themselves, should they resent the headlines, should they desire a new ending to the story, I hope that they themselves will resolve to change the search result.