Survivor contestant Jeff Varner was unanimously voted off the show after he outed fellow tribemate Zeke Smith as transgender during last week's episode. He did so in an attempt to paint Smith as an untrustworthy character with secrets, but the move, which caused a wave of outrage and backlash, ended up causing his own undoing. Now, People reports, Varner has even be fired from his actual job.
Varner, who is a real estate agent was fired from his former employer Allen Tate Realtors on Thursday. Their comment was that Varner was "in the middle of a news story that we don’t want anything to do with." That, and probably they thought he was a bad character after what he did to Smith.
In the 10 months since the show was taped, Varner says he's down a lot of growing up and reflecting. "I have spent 10 months stewing in this awful, horrible mistake I have made," he told EW Morning Live. "I have been through, I don’t know how much therapy. With the show’s therapist, with a local therapist. I have met with and spoken to several LGBT organizations — I’ve joined the board of a couple of them… this has changed me drastically."
While Varner is openly gay, he clearly harbored some very discriminatory and negative views towards transgender people at the time he made the comment on the show. But now he says he's ready to apologize.
"This is about Zeke. I can only profusely apologize. I have apologized to him — we’ve spoken several times on the phone. He continually forgives me. I am amazed and moved at his ability to do that. I know that forgiveness is difficult. I know that he has a lot of people in his ear. I know that watching this last night was traumatic not only for me and my family — I can only imagine what this was like for him and his friends and everybody who loves him."
The added layer of strangeness for all of this is of course that the incident occurred many months ago, so it's almost as if Varner and Smith had to relive the entire painful experience for the second time, in a far more public way. And, as we've seen with Varner being fired from his professional job, these choices have lasting effects when they become viral news stories. Hopefully they both can continue the healing process amidst the public airing of what happened.