In the American reality contest series Survivor, individuals are placed in isolated locations where they compete for a chance to win a grand prize of $1,000,000. In the past, contestants have taken extreme measures to stay within the race, whether it consisted of creating and betraying alliances or even lying about relatives’ deaths.
In this season of Survivor: Game Changers, Contestant Jeff Varner made a choice to fellow contestant Zeke Smith, publicly revealing that Zeke was a transgender male. Varner said he did so “to show the deception” that he believes is done within the game by fellow contestants. However, he regretted his decision after immediate backlash.
Zeke, stunned by the remarks and still not fully able to process what had just happened, sat there in silence.
Only revealing in dismay: “In the two seasons that I’ve played, I told nobody.”
Jeff Varner, being an openly gay man, knew the repercussions of outing a person, before they are prepared to do so, but used it as reasoning for deception.
The concept of being out, or outed, is not new to the LGBT community. It is the act of disclosing an LGBT person’s sexual orientation or gender identity without the person’s consent.
It’s a fear for many members of the LGBT community, as being outed raises the issue of privacy and personal safety.
Being out is a difficult and sometimes life-altering effect that should solely be left up to an individual to disclose.
For me, as a cis-black, gay man, I had the choice to control the narrative surrounding my queerness, when I first came out to friends and family. My scenario isn’t the same for many others, who have been mocked, attacked, or shunned.
According to the national statistics, there are an estimated 1.6 million individuals who are homeless, and about 40% of them are LGBT people.
There is also the constant lingering fear associated with violence that exists. Last year, 22 deaths reportedly consisted of trans people, namely women of color, some of the highest numbers recorded.
The generalization that trans or queer people are tricking others when they perform or try to abide by heteronormative, gender-conforming roles, is a popularized opinion when aggressors try to justify their violence. Yet, this thought process is heavily harmful to the LGBTQA+ community.
LGBTQA+ people who are outed, or come out, are always contemplating with the concept of how others will handle the information. At least with the concept of coming out, an individual is in control of who they want to provide this information to.
Jeff Varner has gone to apologize for his action.
— Jeff Varner (@JEFFVARNER) April 13, 2017
The process of being outed by someone may not always be intentionally malicious, but will always have a greater impact on an LGBTQA+ life than others may know.
When entrusted with information, namely sensitive personal information, it is crucial to let that person disclose that information to others.