Transformative: Considering the Long-Term Impact of Our ‘Jeopardy!’ Champion Amy Schneider

Jason A. Michael

You don’t have to watch “Jeopardy!” to have heard about Amy Schneider’s record-breaking, two-month, 40-game winning streak on the show. She’s been on the cover of The New York Times and The Washington Post, featured on CNN and Good Morning America and in People magazine. The list goes on and on.

But what does it all mean to the LGBTQ+ community? And the trans community in particular? Early on in her run — five games in — Schneider became the first trans person to qualify for the “Jeopardy!” Tournament of Champions, which will air in the fall. She became the first woman in the “Jeopardy!” millionaires club — her earnings total $1,382,800 to be precise — and took second place in most consecutive games won from popular 38-day champ Matt Amodio.

Schneider did it all with a certain grace and dignity that allowed many viewers to get to know a trans person in a way they might not have ever had the opportunity to do. She didn’t force her trans identity on anyone, but it was there, ever constant. She didn’t shy away from anything when she spoke to the press, and just by being herself, she changed hearts and minds.

“The acceptance I’ve received is the fruit of long, violent struggles — some famous, some forgotten — in which generations of trans people have risked their lives to secure their basic right to exist,” Schneider wrote in an essay about her experience on the show for “Frances Thompson and Billy Tipton, Lili Elbe and Dora Richter, Sylvia Rivera and Felicia Elizondo, Laverne Cox and Gavin Grimm, and so many more who are lost to history, have devoted themselves to creating the conditions that exist today, where a trans ‘Jeopardy!’ champion can be, for most people, uncritically accepted and celebrated as the person she is.”

In the essay, Schneider acknowledges that she has helped the cause and that she is proud of it. She said even though she wasn’t fighting the judicial system and only fulfilling her lifelong dream of appearing on “Jeopardy!” she was taking on “a burden of representation.”

“...I will always and forever be proud to say that I’ve done my little part to ease the path for future generations of trans people to [be] free, open and [live] happy lives,” she continued. “And that feeling is worth more to me than any financial gain could ever be.”

Here in Michigan, Schneider certainly has accumulated a fan base.

“I think that Amy’s winning streak was amazing and that she was the greatest educational tool ever,” said Transgender Michigan Executive Director Rachel Crandall-Crocker. “She so normalized the transgender community."

Michelle Fox-Phillips, executive director of the Gender-Identity Network Alliance (GNA), agreed. “I think what she has done for trans visibility is immeasurable,” Fox-Phillips said. “She has done so much for us. She is such a great ambassador and I hope that she continues to be an ambassador … that she is out talking to people, the media, whatever, putting a positive light on our community.”

Cindy Sanders of Warren said that Schneider was “an inspiration to all us transgender women” and that “she is truly an excellent role model.”

In a CNN opinion piece, essayist Allison Hope acknowledged Schneider’s impact as an example of representation, writing, “It is a high mark for LGBTQ+ visibility for those who identify in the acronym and allies alike, and a clapback to the haters,” said Hope. “...There is something particularly uplifting, magical even, about Schneider's winning run. It is cathartic to root for a trans champion at a time when efforts continue to try to block or roll back the rights of transgender people in the U.S.”