Survivor: Game Changers contestant Jeff Varner told Greensboro, North Carolina paper News & Record on Thursday that he’d been fired from his regular job as a real estate agent after an episode of the show aired Wednesday in which he outed fellow contestant Zeke Smith as transgender. Varner’s former employer reportedly told him that he is, “in the middle of news story that we don’t want anything to do with.”
The episode in question was filmed 10 months prior, in Fiji, and Varner was not permitted to discuss what transpired until it aired. Now that it has, he told the paper, “there is sense of relief that…the true healing can begin.”
Varner, who’s gay, also noted that CBS payed for his and Smith’s therapy, and that he’s since been educating himself about transgender people, saying, “I feel like I was able to do some really good work in that time [in therapy] that I hope to continue.”
On Saturday, Varner elaborated to Entertainment Tonight that he was “devastated” by the firing:
“As I’m spending hours doing press [on Thursday], I discover I can’t access my email. Then the MLS association emails to say, ‘You’ve been terminated.’ I didn’t even find out from my company. Suddenly my real estate license was inactive and my current clients [were] left in the dark. It took hours after my press junket to get anyone with the company on the phone to tell me personalLy, and even longer to calm my clients, all of whom, by the way, are coming with me to my new firm....It was an ugly day.”
Smith, who is still in the competition, wrote for The Hollywood Reporter on Thursday that he’s had difficult time forgiving Varner:
“[I]f we’re being perfectly honest with one another, I’ve struggled with that forgiveness in the months following. I can’t foresee us sipping martinis together in Fire Island. While I can reconcile the personal slight of him outing me, I continue to be troubled by his willingness to deploy such a dangerous stereotype on a global platform.”
The episode that aired on Wednesday shows that Varner was swiftly voted off the island after outing Smith, and that he apologized repeatedly for his action, stating that he hadn’t realized Smith wasn’t out as transgender.