‘Jeopardy! champ Amy Schneider on trans visibility and her success

Written by Amy Ta, produced by Brian Hardzinski

Amy Schneider has won more than $500,000 on “Jeopardy!” and now ranks fourth all-time for money won during the show’s regular season. Courtesy of Jeopardy Productions, Inc.

Amy Schneider has won more than $500,000 total from winning “Jeopardy!” 13 times so far. She’s also the most successful trans candidate the show’s ever seen, and the first to qualify for the show’s prestigious Tournament of Champions. After a two-week hiatus for a college professors tournament, Schneider is back on “Jeopardy!” tonight.

She tells Press Play that she’s been a fan of the show all her life, and started contestant tryouts 13-14 years ago but didn’t get on the show until last year. 

During an episode that aired on Thanksgiving, she wore a trans flag pin on her lapel to acknowledge the community. She explains that decision: “Thanksgiving can be a difficult time for trans people because it's such a family-centered holiday. And the sad truth is that disproportionately, trans people may not have good relationships or any relationships with their family. … I thought if I was going to be open about that, sort of show my membership and support of that community, that would be a good time.”

She tweeted about it and got some negative reactions, but they weren’t as bad as she anticipated. “I've really been pleasantly surprised by how little negativity I've gotten online. … I think it really speaks well of the ‘Jeopardy!’ fandom as a community that I've gotten such [an] overwhelmingly positive response.”

Schneider started to embrace her trans identity several years ago, when she portrayed Flute in “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” Shakespeare’s play.

“That character is in a play within a play, forced against their will to play a female role. And so I was putting on a dress and wig and makeup every night for a month or two. And something about that I seemed to really enjoy. And then I just started thinking, ‘Well what if I was to put on a dress outside of that?’ … I was really surprised by how right that felt,” she recalls. “And so that was the beginning of a long process. It was still years before I really started to think of myself as trans, and even more years before I felt able to come out.”

Schneider says that now, in front of a national TV audience, she’s much more open, real, and relaxed. “Had I been on TV before I transitioned, I think I would have been a much less compelling personality. And I think I would have been very closed off, and people wouldn't have felt able to connect with me in the way that it seems like they have now.”

Credits

Guest:

  • Amy Schneider - “Jeopardy!” champion and engineering manager from Oakland, California