Spoilers for previously aired episodes of Jeopardy
I know it’s ridiculous to put a spoiler warning as this news has been out for a few days. We don’t watch every Jeopardy episode in my house, but we go through phases of watching several in a row. I learned that Jeopardy champion Amy Schneider’s run had ended when I saw a headline on another site. I was mildly annoyed, but this was inevitable and we wouldn’t have caught up anyway.
Amy ended her run this week as the fifth-ranking highest earner on Jeopardy with the second longest running streak of 40 days. Host Ken Jennings remains number one in consecutive days on the show. (Here’s a link to a video with some highlights of her wins and here are highlights of her losing game.) Amy was a delight to watch on Jeopardy. Unlike other recent long-running champions, she has a chill personality. You get the impression that she’s wicked smart and isn’t particularly cutthroat.
Amy wrote an essay for Jeopardy about what her record means to her. She’s been watching the show since she was little and has dreamed of this, but more than that she was able to be herself as a transgender woman.
And while, as I’ve said, my trans identity is only one part of myself, it has also been the source of easily the biggest rewards I’ve gotten from this experience. The first one is personal: a few months ago, deep down, I simply did not believe that I could ever really be accepted for who I was. That is, I had come to believe (not without some difficulty) that at least some people accepted me: my family, my girlfriend, my inner circle of friends. But I always believed that most people would see me as trans people have so often been seen: a freak, a pervert, a man in a dress, a liar, mentally ill. And as the days counted down to my episodes airing, I braced myself for the rejection I was sure would come. And then… it just didn’t. Sure, there have been a few isolated voices trying to bring me down, but the overwhelming reaction has been of support and acceptance. People actually believe me when I say who I am. They don’t think there’s something wrong with me. And because of that, for maybe the first time in my life, I’m starting to think there really isn’t anything wrong with me either.
But the acceptance I’ve received isn’t due to any special qualities in myself (or at least, those qualities aren’t the most important reason for it). 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. 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. And the most rewarding thing I’ve gained from my Jeopardy! run is the ability to finally say that I, too, have helped that cause. I haven’t thrown rocks at the police, or fought for my rights in the Supreme Court; all I’ve really done is chase a lifelong dream of appearing on Jeopardy!. But I knew that I was taking on a burden of representation, and 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 live free, open, and happy lives, and that feeling is worth more to me than any financial gain could ever be.
I can’t imagine what it’s like to have people reject you like that. This got me choked up a little and I’m so happy for her. As an editor, I have to say that this was so well written and just the right length! I know that’s an aside and I shouldn’t be surprised considering how smart she is.
Amy told Extra that she plans to go to Ireland with her partner and go on a little shopping spree. They’re also going to use the money for a mortgage on a house.
Update: Our blogger friend Jessica from Go Fug Yourself competed against Amy! She was awesome and a strong contender. I learned from her episode how to better talk to people about my job actually. She said that “Amy is AMAZING, I’m so proud to have been part of her historic run.”
I’m looking forward to seeing Amy on the Tournament of Champions! She’s going to go up against Matt Amodio and she has only nice things to say about him.