“I remember walking into Tribal Council that night. I remember the smell of the kerosene in our torches,” Zeke writes. “I remember the smug smirk on [Jeff]‘s face and the gleam in his eye when he turned to me and snarled, ‘Why haven’t you told anyone that you’re transgender?’”
“The lights magnified in brightness. The cameras, though 30 feet away, suddenly felt inches from my face. All sound faded,” Zeke continues. “Something primal deep inside me screamed: run. I lost control of my body, my legs bounced up and down uncontrollably, willing me to flee, but the rest of me sat dead as stone. To my left was The Abyss. I could’ve made a clean break for it, but I knew there was no running from what had happened. Cameras would follow me, if not that night, then eventually. Running was not an option. So I sat blank, almost in a trance, unaware of what happened around me, trying to form a plan.”
“I knew that Varner‘s actions, though targeted at me, had nothing to do with me and everything to do with him,” Zeke writes. “His terrible utterances were not an effect of my actions, but a reflection of his own personal maladies.”
Still, despite giving Jeff a hug when he was voted out, Zeke admits that forgiveness hasn’t been easy.
“If we’re being perfectly honest with one another, I’ve struggled with that forgiveness in the months following,” he says. “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.”
In case you missed it, you can read Jeff‘s apology here.