An inspiration for fans of intellectualism: Who is Amy Schneider?

by Zoe Stratos | opinions editor

Feb. 3, 2022

Ever since I can remember, “Jeopardy!” has been a huge part of my life. Every weekday, my mother, sister and I would get ready to eat dinner during “ABC World News Tonight with David Muir,” and switch channels quickly while eating to watch Alex Trebek welcome us to another episode of unmatched intellectualism.

A lot of things on “Jeopardy!” have been changing these last few months, not just hosts, but many winners, as well. And then came along Amy Schneider, who made a historic run of 40 games.

Unfortunately, the engineering manager’s run came to an end on Jan. 26, when she bet too high in the final Jeopardy! and lost, gracefully, might I add, to Rhone Talsma. He finished in first with $29,600, while Schneider finished in second with $19,600.

While the shocking end to Schneider’s run is absolutely devastating to “Jeopardy!” fans around the country, her legacy and impact on the LGBTQ+ community and beyond outweighs the despondency. 

Schneider, aside from historically surpassing James Holzhauer and Matt Amodio to sit behind Ken Jennings with most consecutive wins under her belt, is also an openly transgender woman; The first to make it to these high ranks, and also to qualify for the “Jeopardy!” Tournament of Champions.

She is a role model for women, trans women and everyone in between — not to mention she got a question about Olivia Rodrigo correct. Iconic!

But besides her incredible knowledge of modern pop music, what I, and many others, loved about Schneider was that she was able to both call attention to, and cast aside, her transness. We were always aware of it, and she made it known, but it was secondary to the game — she was unapologetically herself, and let her smarts do the talking.

Schneider has said that she initially downplayed being transgender on the show because she didn’t want it to be exclusively what she was known for, but her impact could not be downplayed, nonetheless. 

“I am a trans woman, and I’m proud of that fact, but I’m a lot of other things, too,” Schneider wrote on Twitter; However, being transgender has become a large part of her Jeopardy! journey, and she hasn’t avoided it.

But the inspiration for members of the LGBTQ+ community is only part of the importance of her run. “Jeopardy!” has been on the air since 1964, with the median age of viewers at approximately 64 years old, according to an Ad Age report. Schneider’s run has also opened the gates for the country’s older, more conservative population to see someone unlike themselves at the forefront of popular media.

It shows that gender nonconformity isn’t something to be afraid of or angry at, because Schneider is just like every other contestant. Dressed in her signature loose curls and necklace of pearls each episode, she competed — and won — with humility, not calling attention to her transness.

Not only that, but her personality shined each time Ken would speak with her after the first commercial break of each episode. One of which, she admitted her competition hype song is “Lose Yourself” by Eminem. 

She is charismatic, witty and full of fun stories anyone can relate to, besides being an unbelievably intelligent “Jeopardy!” contestant. I can only wish.

Although the legendary gameshow and legendary contestant may not make a seismic shift in our culture often stuck in its ways about transgender individuals, Schneider’s run taught us all a few things, whether part of the LGBTQ+ community or not.

We’re always excited to learn about new things on the show, whether it’s edible rhyme time, hodgepodge, the Roosevelts or 19th century composers.

But Amy Schneider shows you can learn from those around you, no matter who they are, what they look like or what they believe. Everyone has an equal right to knowledge.