On Wednesday night’s shocking episode of Survivor: Game Changers, Jeff Varner outed Zeke Smith during a tribal council in an attempt to paint the Brooklyn-based asset manager as “deceitful” and therefore worthy of being voted out.
A day following the emotional episode, Jenner, who revealed in a 20/20 interview with Diane Sawyer in 2015 that she identifies as a woman and would be transitioning from male to female, vocalized her support of 29-year-old Smith.
“@zekerchief Being trans in the public eye is no joke, but you did good buddy,” Jenner, 67, tweeted. “You made us proud.”
Speaking exclusively with PEOPLE for the current issue, Smith said, “It’s tough with Varner.”
“I don’t think he hates trans people. I just think he has a lot of misconceptions about trans people,” said Smith. “I think if he wants to be an ally to trans people, he has a long way to go.”
But Smith is extremely pleased that his tribemates quickly admonished Varner for his actions.
“Trans people are a highly vulnerable population. We make easy targets. We’re attacked a lot and I expected a lot more from Varner,” said Smith. “But I think it’s so great that you see his hateful tactics rebuffed with such amazing love and from such a diverse group that responds to him.”
After being ousted by his tribe on Wednesday’s episode, Varner approached Smith and pulled him in for a hug. After viewing the footage, Smith admitted it was a hard moment to watch: “It was hard to see me hug him that night and tell him that it was going to be okay. But it was important for me to show that he had not cowed me; that whatever shots he meant to take at me, he missed; that I was the stronger man and he was the one weeping.”
Survivor: Game Changers airs Wednesdays (8 p.m. ET) on CBS.
Caitlyn Jenner Praises Transgender Survivor Contestant Zeke Smith: ‘You Made Us Proud’ – PEOPLE.com