Despite the dark cloud surrounding the final pre-merge episode of Survivor Ghost Island, Zeke Smith and GLAAD helped bring some positivity to it all.
Modern seasons of Survivor have been decidedly split in their moments of greatness. Millennials vs. Gen X had a decidedly stronger post-merge half, while Heroes vs. Healers vs. Hustlers only really got started in the final third. Game Changers, however, was quite the opposite, as it started out strong but took a real dive after the unfortunate outing of Zeke Smith by Jeff Varner.
While that moment was horrific in its own right, the presentation of the moment by CBS, the castaways’ instant reaction, Zeke’s incredible poise and Jeff Probst’s handling of the situation culminated in a moment that helped change the conversation surrounding trans people on and off of television.
CBS, Zeke Smith and GLAAD worked together to turn a bad moment into a modicum of good, and it helped lead Survivor Game Changers to win Outstanding Reality Program at the 2018 GLAAD Media Awards’ Rising Stars event on Friday, May 4. It stood tall amongst other reality programs such as Gaycation With Ellen Page by Viceland, I Am Jazz by TLC, RuPaul’s Drag Race by VH1, and The Voice on NBC.
“My grand public outing made global headlines,” Zeke Smith said in his acceptance speech on behalf of Survivor, according to The Hollywood Reporter. “Together, we changed millions of people’s perceptions of transgender people. We shattered stereotypes. We created a worldwide conversation about privacy and respect.”
Earlier in the day, Zeke wrote about his year removed from the life-changing Survivor Game Changers moment, commenting about how the online conversation surrounding trans people being outted due to the immediate support he received from players such as winner Sarah Lacina, Ozzy Lusth, Tai Trang, Andrea Boehlke and others.