The “Jeopardy!” champion’s impact on women’s history and trans representation.
Written by: Lynn Nichols
Amy Schneider broke barriers as the highest-earning female champion in “Jeopardy!” history, with the second-longest win streak of all time. In 40 games, she became the first trans contestant to qualify for the Tournament of Champions, and one of only five people to earn more than $1 million on the world-famous game show.
With speed and precision, Schneider’s streak seemed unstoppable — she averaged 32 correct responses per game out of 60 clues on the board, as of game 39. In 87% of her games, according to official “Jeopardy!” statistics, Schneider built up leads so wide that she was unsurpassable in Final Jeopardy!. Her last episode aired January 26, when she could not provide a response to the Final Jeopardy! clue and lost her 41st game to Rhone Talsma. Schneider’s season winnings total $1,382,800.
Megan Mullaly, managing editor of The Vindicator, described the disappointment she and many fans felt when Schneider’s streak was over. “I loved turning the TV on every few days, seeing her still competing, and saying a little, ‘You go, girl,’” she said. Even though viewers miss seeing Schneider on “Jeopardy!”, her supporters were happy to watch her succeed for so long. Benny Littlejohn (they/them), a junior majoring in film and media arts, said: “It’s pretty wholesome. I was comforted by the fact that she just enjoyed it — enjoyed the ride while it lasted.”
Schneider became the highest-earning, longest-winning woman to win on “Jeopardy!” after she surpassed 2014 champion Julia Collins’ 20-day streak. During the show and on Twitter, Schneider spoke about her respect and gratitude for female trailblazers like Collins, even wearing a sweater during her 20th game as a tribute to Collins’ fashion sense. Megan Mullaly said that Schneider, Collins, and all other past and future female champions on “Jeopardy!” are valuable role models. “Some shows still emulate the idea that a woman is just a pretty face,” she said. “Watching a woman compete on a show like ‘Jeopardy!’ shows young girls how much more a woman can be.”
CSU students also discussed Schneider’s “Jeopardy!” run as an example of powerful LGBTQ+ representation on television. “I think it’s great,” first-year Ph.D. student Mary Robakowski said. “There needs to be more LGBTQ+ rep in media and such, but to have stuff like this in real life feels like vindication. Like it’s not just in fiction that queer people can achieve great things.” Iris Graham, a freshman psychology major, said that she was proud of Amy Schneider’s success and what it represents for the trans community. “For once it seems to me like the news about a trans person is perceived as positive,” Graham said, which resonates today “especially when it’s about a trans woman.” Because of her positive impact creating visibility for the LGBTQ+ community, Schneider will receive a Special Recognition honor at the 33rd Annual GLAAD Media Awards.
Schneider has challenged transmisogyny and anti-LGBTQ+ discrimination in her interviews and social media posts. She grew up in Dayton, and fellow Ohioan Rep. Tim Ryan congratulated her on Twitter for her wins. As she thanked the Democratic Representative, Schneider reminded her followers of the Republican party’s transphobic legislative agenda and its devastating impact on Ohio’s trans community. That tweet marks one of Schneider’s few explicitly political public statements; but, as she pointed out, reactionary anti-trans policies make it impossible for her to avoid political stances. “I would be *delighted* for my existence to not be a political issue,” she wrote. “But as the GOP won't give me that option, please direct your complaints to them, thanks!"
Benny Littlejohn described Schneider as just one example of “transfem excellence” in entertainment, with the power to counter transmisogynist rhetoric. “Once you have remarkable figures like that, the people that hate on them — because they’re transfem or a trans woman — just look stupid,” they said. “It just shows that [transfeminine people] are cool.” Schneider has faced harassment during her fame, including frequent online messages misgendering her (such as those she answered with sarcastic humor in a tweet). After her incredible success and impressive record, Littlejohn said, hate like that must come from a place of envy. “You think the people complaining about her could win on ‘Jeopardy!’?”
As she has reminded fans on Twitter, Amy Schneider was not the first transgender “Jeopardy!” champion. In December 2020, Kate Freeman became the first out trans person to win a game on the show. Schneider’s success represents another step forward for trans representation because of her high earnings and long-running streak. When she spoke to the Associated Press, Schneider said that along with being a role model to other trans people, her fame takes positive visibility outside of the trans community. The “Jeopardy!” audience includes “parents, and sometimes grandparents, of trans people, an older generation,” Schneider said, viewers who may have struggled to understand trans identities or feared the discrimination their trans loves ones would face. “To be able to go out there and show that I can be successful in a very mainstream type of way has, I think, made a lot of them feel better about the people in their lives.”
Amy Schneider will appear on “Jeopardy!” again to compete in the Tournament of Champions, which will air this fall. In February she announced that she resigned from her job as a software engineer, with plans to pursue further public endeavors, including writing a book. For updates on her life, as well as detailed behind-the scenes of her game show experiences (and outfits), you can visit her @Jeopardamy on Instagram and Twitter.