Trans Jeopardy! champion Amy Schneider recently opened up about the critical need for trans representation in media and how a lack of it during her youth kept her in the closet well into adulthood.
In an emotional op-ed for the Dayton Daily News, the Ohio Native explored why it took her until she was 37 years old to realize she was trans.
“I couldn’t think of myself as trans because I didn’t know that was something a (normal) person could think!” she wrote.
Throughout her childhood, she said, she was exposed exclusively to negative portrayals of trans women.
Through movies like “The Silence of the Lambs,” she explained how she came to understand trans women as “mentally ill, dangerous, fantasists, not ‘really’ women but scary men with freakish impulses.”
“If trans women were like that, how could I possibly be one?” she asked.
And that, she said, is why “accurate, diverse, honest representation” is so important, and why she hopes her 40-game winning streak on Jeopardy! made a difference beyond her game show legacy.
“My hope is that my ‘Jeopardy!’ run has shown some people, who might not have known otherwise, that being trans isn’t a myth, an illness, a perversion or a problem to be solved. Trans is just a thing that some people are, and those people are just like anybody else, and can do anything they want to do. Even become a champion!”
She added that it would not have been possible for her to accept herself as trans “until I saw other people like me,” and she advocated for more representation of trans men and nonbinary people as well. Her childhood was wrought with negative images of trans women, she explained, but there were zero images of trans men or nonbinary folks.
“The existence of trans women was at least acknowledged in the society I grew up in. Had I been a trans man, or nonbinary, I wouldn’t have known that there was anyone like me at all.”
Schneider’s 40-game winning streak captivated viewers. Throughout her run, she made history in more ways than one.
She became the woman to win the most consecutive regular season episodes and the highest-earning woman to ever appear on the show. She is also the first out trans contestant to make it to the Jeopardy! Tournament of Champions, the fifth person in the show’s history to win a million dollars, and the fourth person to do it in the regular season.
She has also become known for communicating regularly with fans on Twitter, and for being an inspiration to trans people everywhere.
In February, she announced she quit her day job to focus on other projects like writing a book, and she also recently revealed that she got engaged to her girlfriend, Genevieve Davis.