Australian Survivor became the first Survivor edition in the worldwide franchise to cast a non-binary contestant, though Phil Ferguson, the 28-year-old Melbourne-based Insta-famous crochet artist, was the first contestant voted off of the latest season of the show in an absolutely brutal twist that no one in the tribe saw coming.
Ferguson, started making their crazy crochet creations in 2014 as a way of connecting with the community around them, which then led to a growing social media following with almost 140,000 followers and a coveted blue tick verification on Instagram.
They might have been the first boot 😭 but @chiliphilly is also the first non binary player ever on #Survivor & the creator of extraordinary & hilarious crochet art. Check out our interview on Kids Pod #SurvivorAU @Survivor_AU https://t.co/tyw0923pvJ pic.twitter.com/ZvZPRDfT9U
— Aimee Chan (Forever Colby) (@survivortragic) July 19, 2021
“I’m straight up, I’m pretty honest. I’m a Scorpio, they’re loyal. Because of my ability to understand people and read them, I’ll be able to make any sort of plan happen,” Phil said before the action started to hot up on the show.
And it’s REALLY hot up there (and then really COLD) in Cloncurry Queensland, where this season of Australian Survivor: Brains vs Brawn was filmed.
YAY!! I finally can see my back story!! Jeez I sound like I'm bringing love and happiness to the experience lolhttps://t.co/hWye5yAwtm
— Phil Ferguson (@thechiliphilly) July 21, 2021
Lack Of Representation
This is Australian Survivor’s sixth season, but the popular reality television show has been slow to include members of the LGBTQI community and people of colour in its casting process.
— #SurvivorAU (@Survivor_AU) July 21, 2019
The main Survivor franchise has stumbled a few times with it’s casting choices as well. In 2017, a transgender contestant, Zeke Smith, was outed without their consent by another tribe member at a tribal council.
The LGBTQI community has been slightly better represented in Australian Survivor series, with contestants including out lesbian ex-AFLW player Moana Hope competing in 2018, and Peter Conte in 2017, who was accidentally outed by editing choices made and aired by the production team that year.
Ferguson’s inclusion in this year’s Australian Survivor as a non-binary contestant has become a topic of social media discussion, and will definitely educate and inform, especially those who may not be aware of the fact that just because someone sports a wicked moustache, doesn’t necessarily mean they identify as he/him.
If your concern is to not offend someone, you can simply use gender neutral pronouns (they/them) as a base. If you know that they go by he/him or she/her then you should be fine with saying it as is. Its less about 'remembering' and more so 'respecting' after its been expressed. https://t.co/tCY5Du3HGB
— Phil Ferguson (@thechiliphilly) July 20, 2021
It appeared going into the first tribal council of the season that Ferguson was definitely safe, as they’d already made an impression with their affable nature, joyful personality and a quirky crocheted crocodile hat, which was left behind as a team mascot.
— #SurvivorAU (@Survivor_AU) July 18, 2021
Unfortunately what transpired next shocked everyone on the team, with politician George pulling out a secret advantage which gave him the power to take half the tribe with him back to camp!
PHIL, it sucks to be the 1st voted out…especially when it was collateral damage. Too bad you didn’t have more time to show us what you were capable of 😕 #SurvivorAU
— Jonathan LaPaglia (@JLa_Paglia) July 18, 2021
It quickly dawned that it included the person that the tribe had previously decided to send home. This left the remaining tribe members to scramble to come up with a plan and with no chance to strategise, predictably, the sole creative person left behind was picked off first!
Because Ferguson was only part of the tribe for a short time, they didn’t get a chance to disclose their preferred pronouns to the team, a point they were quick to make online when folks started questioning why the tribe were using incorrect pronouns.
Just don't want people giving credit for using them and others hate for not using them when they all didn't know until now.
— Phil Ferguson (@thechiliphilly) July 18, 2021
It’s easy to see though that if Ferguson had had a chance to really get into the game, their unique talents and value to the team would have taken them very far in the competition. “After getting reached out to by various alumni, I had the realisation that I didn’t just film some random tv thing and forget it, but I am actually a part of the larger Survivor family and thats really nice!” Ferguson said.