Image Credit: ‘Survivor 41,’ CBS

The so-called “New Era” of Survivor—the post-pandemic seasons of the long-running CBS reality competition series—have been marked by a noticeable uptick in LGBTQ+ contestants, and the show’s been all the more exciting because of it.

The winner’s circle alone is full of gays, from Season 44’s Yam Yam Arocho, Survivor‘s first out QPOC winner, to most recently Kenzie Petty, the first female winner to openly identify as LGBTQ+ while on the show.

Even 41’s victor, Erika Casupanan, came out as a lesbian in an Instagram video at the end of last year—the gays stay winning!

Now, the latest former castaway to come out as queer is Casupanan’s runner-up, Deshawn Radden. Welcome to the family, Deshawn!

“I came out to my family and a few close friends a few years ago,” Radden writes in a recent Instagram post. “The journey only began at that point, and it’s taken much growing, learning & unlearning and developing self love to get here, especially as this part of my identity intersects with my faith.”

The Miami-based Radden came into his 2021 season of Survivor as a (mostly) closeted medical student, but stands proud today as an out graduate of Barry University’s School of Podiatric Medicine—that’s Doctor Deshawn Radden to you!

He elaborated further on his coming out experience in the latest edition of The Pride Has Spoken, the special Pride Month series from former Survivor contestant Rob Cesternino’s Rob Has A Podcast podcast network. Speaking with fellow castaway Evvie Jagoda—the show’s first nonbinary player—Radden details his journey:

“I came out back in 2021. I came out to all of my immediate family, and then a few close friends,” he shares. “And the struggle there was that, since I never made a public statement, there’s spaces that I occupied that I wasn’t out in.”

“And so sometimes I had to make the decision: Do I want to correct somebody when they very innocently assume my sexuality, or do I just want to let it fly? And so here is a really cool opportunity to be able to say to the world, ‘Hey, I’m queer.'”

Image Credit: ‘Survivor 41,’ CBS

Radden reveals he previously dealt with mental health issues related to feeling like he was living a double life—like he wasn’t being his authentic self. However, he reached a turning point in the early days of the pandemic, when lockdown meant he had nowhere else to look but inward and he found himself turning to substances to subdue his depression and anxiety and

He ultimately credits spending time with his brother—and their conversations around spirituality—for helping him find the courage to come out. Beyond support from his family, Radden also felt inspired by watching Survivor‘s first out Black contestant Brice Izyah compete on the show’s 28th season.

Still, even seeing Izyah’s example, Radden says he wasn’t quite ready to come out on the show and on public television:

“Before I went onto Survivor, I decided I wasn’t going to talk about it on the show,” he tells Jagoda on the podcast. “And it’s a regret of mine, because it definitely informed the way that I played the game, unfortunately, in a negative way, and it had an influence while I was out there. I didn’t want to complicate this already very complicated situation by bringing it on TV. I didn’t talk about it, but it definitely would have helped to be authentic out there.”

Sounds like someone’s due for another shot, don’t you think?

Image Credit: ‘Survivor 41,’ CBS

This is Survivor, after all, a show that has regularly brought back some of its strongest and most memorable players for another go on the island. Plus, rumor has it that the upcoming 50th season (Survivor 47 reportedly just wrapped filming and will air later this year) will be the first of the “New Era” to feature returning castaways.

So, would Radden be game to outwit, outplay, and outlast once again?

“I would feel very liberated,” he admits. “It would be so liberating to go out there from every lens—from the lens of my interactions with the producers out there, who I love so much, for them to get to see me authentic. And then for Jeff to get to see me authentic, and then whoever I’m playing with… I feel like the win would be to be able to go back out there and do what I feel like, in my heart, I should have done the first time.”

We’ve got an even better idea for the 50th season: Survivor: Gay Island, bringing back Radden and Casupanan for a re-match, along with Arocho, Petty, and all of our recent LGBTQ+ players! CBS knows the gays are their core demo for the show anyway, so it’s kind of perfect!

Anyway, congrats again to Radden for taking the next big step in his journey—things are only looking up from here!

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