Champion ‘Jeopardy’, inspiration from the transgender community

It is possible that many “Jeopardy!” viewers don’t even know, 30 shows in, that super-champion Amy Schneider – one of the four most successful contenders in the show’s history – is a trans woman.

But LGBTQ + viewers know this.

They also know that Schneider could be a game-changer on a cultural level.

“She’s phenomenal,” said Leslie Farber, an attorney for Montclair. “With a personality to match his intelligence.”

Mainstream viewers may not know this because Schneider herself doesn’t care much about it. The show either.

Amy Schneider is competing on "Peril!"

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This came up on several occasions, in informal banter with guest host Ken Jennings, in the weeks leading up to Schneider’s big milestone: breaking the million dollar mark last Friday. But Schneider, an engineering executive, is so low-key and relaxed, so seemingly at ease in her own skin, that the problem quickly became a non-problem for almost everyone except some of the trolls in the world. social media who have felt the need to cast a shadow online.

“I want to thank everyone who took the time during this busy holiday season to reach out to me and explain to me that in fact, I am a man,” Schneider tweeted on New Years Eve. .

“Each of you is the first person to bring up this very intelligent point, which had never crossed my mind before,” she wrote.

an account

As Americans over the past decade have begun to consider the integration of transgender people into culture, role models have tended to be celebrities: Caitlyn Jenner, Laverne Cox, Newark’s Michaela Jaé Rodriguez ( she won a Golden Globe on Sunday for his work on “Pose” of FX).

And, as celebrities, they tend to self-dramatize. “To my young LGBTQAI babies, WE ARE HERE, the door is now open, now reach for the stars!” Rodriguez posted on his Instagram account on Sunday.

Schneider is different. She’s cool, laid back, the lady next door – if the lady next door was a genius. It is his brain that is blazing.

“I guess we keep thinking that maybe one day it won’t be mentioned at all, it will be completely irrelevant,” said Farber, who made the transition in 2004.

With Schneider, there is so much more to say. That she’s a steamroller, demolishing every nook and cranny. That she is incredibly knowledgeable about several disciplines. That she has more consecutive games under her belt than any player except Matt Amodio, James Holzhauer and Ken Jennings. That she is the most successful contestant to ever take part in “Jeopardy!” That she has a girlfriend named Geneviève and a cat named Meep.

Amy Schneider, a "Peril!" contestant, poses with host Ken Jennings.

On a more disturbing note, she was stolen at gunpoint in her hometown of Oakland, Calif., On New Years weekend. credit and my phone, ”she tweeted. “Peril!” released a statement: “We were deeply saddened to learn of this incident and contacted Amy privately to offer our assistance in any capacity.”

Disguised princess

One of the more interesting talking points of the series was his tattoo. She hasn’t actually shown it on the air. “They should get the artist’s permission and it’s kind of a copyright issue,” Amy said.

The tattoo is that of Ozma from Oz. And yes, there is a story there.

Ozma does not appear in the book or movie “The Wizard of Oz”. But she is a key character in all of the “Oz” sequels written by L. Frank Baum. She starts off as an he – a boy named Tip, who has many adventures with the Scarecrow and the Iron Man in the second book in the series, “The Land of Oz”. It wasn’t until the end that it was revealed that Tip had been transformed, baby, by the evil witch Mombi. This is in fact Ozma, the rightful princess of Oz! In the end, Mombi changes him back.

“I hope none of you care less about me than before,” she told her confused friends. “I’m just the same Tip, you know; only – only -“

“Only you are different!” one of them said.

“She turns out to be the beautiful princess she always has been,” Schneider wrote in a tweet. “So that seemed like the perfect picture to commemorate my transition! “


Baum, who arguably created the first transgender character in children’s literature, could almost have thought of Schneider when he wrote: “To be individual, my friends, to be different from others, is the only way to be distinguished from herd. commmon.”

Which Schneider certainly is.

“Amy’s natural charm, intelligence, curiosity and undeniable friendliness drew her to audiences across the country,” said Alex Schmider, associate director of transgender representation for GLAAD (Gay and Lesbian Alliance against defamation).

She invited “a renewed conversation about transgender people and their issues through their personal connection with her,” he said.

Opening the way

Schneider isn’t the first openly transgender contestant on “Jeopardy!” A year ago, Kate Freeman, another winner, led the way.

But Schneider, the first transgender contender to qualify for the Tournament of Champions, a woman who has knocked down challengers like so many bowlers – while still being kind and unpretentious – would be big news under any circumstances. .

“Peril!” handled his reign with exceptional common sense, said Tom Prol, founder and current executive member of Garden State Equality.

“I like the deployment that they have done on this, which is not to do a deployment,” Prol said. “It’s just very ho-hum. A brilliant person who’s just transgender. That’s the beautiful part of that story. It’s so true, tangible to her existence. She’s an incredibly bright, sophisticated, intelligent person. , the genius among us, who just happens to be transgender. We are proud of our community. “

And the press, Farber says, followed the show’s lead.

“I was pleasantly impressed that the press mainly uses appropriate pronouns,” she said. “This she earned more money than any other women. I know there are certainly people who would say that she is not really a woman. “

Many viewers, Schneider says, wrote to her: transgender people who found inspiration in her, but also parents and grandparents who wanted to engage with their transgender children but didn’t know how. “Peril!” with its low-key family format, helped them acclimate to the issue.

“I think I relieved them of their fear for their loved one, that their trans child or grandchild was limited in life and couldn’t be successful because of it,” Schneider told The Daily Beast. . “By showing myself to be successful in such a grandparent friendly way, I think it made them feel a little better.”

In the tweets, Schneider spoke a bit about his past. Born in Dayton, Ohio. Played the trumpet in the marching band and joined the drama club. Had undiagnosed ADHD. Moved to the Bay Area in 2009. In 2016, separated from his wife and began the transition process.

She also thanked her parents for their support and encouragement (her father passed away in 2016). It’s a message parents across the country need to hear.

“I think it’s such a powerful message, especially for kids who are different, who express a different side of themselves,” Prol said. “They nurtured her, made her feel free and creative. There is nothing more powerful than this moment when parents discover something different in their child, and they embrace it, engage it. and feed him. “

What Schneider has put on the table is not that transgender people are there. It is now widely understood, if not always eagerly accepted. What Schneider shows is that they come in all styles.

It’s a message that Farber, who spent much of her youth as a drummer playing Zeppelin and Deep Purple covers in hard rock bands – before becoming a lawyer, practicing at Hackensack and Montclair – would like to see. people are thinking.

“Maybe the celebrity types are helping to some extent,” she said. “But we come from all walks of life, all professions. Some of us are doctors, some are lawyers, some are athletes, some are actors, some are truck drivers. It fits all categories.”

A trans woman isn’t necessarily a diva in a sequined dress (although that’s fine, too). It could also be a conventional looking woman with a very unconventional mind.

“People have to be judged on their accomplishments,” Farber said. “And his accomplishments are based on his intelligence.”

Jim Beckerman is an entertainment and culture reporter for For unlimited access to his insightful reports on how you spend your free time, please register or activate your digital account today.

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Twitter: @ jimbeckerman1

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