Amy Schnieder: More Than Just a Jeopardy Trailblazer

Thatcher Fox Richard, Opinions Editor

When Amy Schnieder concluded her Jeopardy win streak on Wednesday, she said she “went in the bathroom and cried for about 30 or 40 seconds, pulled [herself] together, and headed out.” Schnieder ended a 40-day win streak, putting her with the second most Jeopardy wins ever only second to Jeopardy host Ken Jennings who achieved a 74-day streak in 2004.

Schnieder’s loss on Wednesday was bittersweet for her, claiming there was a sense of relief along with the sadness of breaking her streak. While only one episode of Jeopardy airs each day, contestants participate in a filming period where Schnieder would compete in about 5 games per day twice a week for several weeks. This put a significant amount of stress on her career, forcing her to use all her personal time and several unpaid days off from her job as a software engineer.

As the winningest woman in Jeopardy history, Schneider has set an extremely important milestone for not just the trans community, but for all women as well. In addition to holding her 40-day win streak, Amy Schnieder is the first woman to win over 1,000,000 dollars on Jeopardy. Like every other trans person of fame, once the world heard of Schnieder’s transness it became a core tenant to how people interviewed her. Despite this, Schnieder has gracefully and beautifully opened herself up to her fans and displayed a deeper part of her personality. When meeting with New York Times reporter Shane O’Neill Schnieder showed off her “Ozma of Oz” tattoo which she explained signified that “when she was an infant, she was kidnapped and enchanted by an evil sorceress and raised as a boy.” Since her transition, Schnieder has vowed to always say yes to new experiences stating, “there was so much I denied myself for so long, I’ll give anything a shot now.” In addition to her wild success on Jeopardy Schnieder has said yes to stand-up comedy, nose piercings, and new chances at love with her current girlfriend, Genevieve, whom Schnieder is openly and obviously extremely fond of.

It is no secret that transgender people in the public eye experience much more scrutiny than their cis-gendered peers. Schnieder grappled with how to present on the show with things like hairstyles, clothing, and even the register in which she speaks her answers. Unlike transgender men whose voices deepen with hormone therapy, trans women consciously speak in a higher register, as estrogen does not make one’s voice higher. Schnieder ultimately decided to speak in the register most comfortable to her, saying “Trans women watching can see me with my voice as it is and see me being OK with it.”  While things such as vocal register may not come as a second thought to cisgendered individuals, for trans people small details like that are not just important to combating dysphoria, but often they are integral to our safety.

It was, however, a very pleasant surprise to watch Schnieder’s run on Jeopardy not be plagued by such scrutiny. There was, and still is, acknowledgment of Schnieder’s identity as a trans woman, but most reportings are focusing on her immense intellect and unwavering kindness to strangers. Schnieder told Good Morning America’s George Stephanopoulos that the best part of being on Jeopardy for her is “expressing myself, representing the entire community of trans people and … just being a smart, confident woman doing something super normal like being on ‘Jeopardy!” It’s hard for people dislike someone who exudes such a high level of kindness, positivity and enthusiasm. She had her audience so enraptured that in the last week of December, Jeopardy was the highest rated show on cable television.

Schnieder has been a fantastic representative of the trans community. We have been so lucky that she has decided to open her personality up to her fans. Her story and character are so fascinating and have taught us that once you give people a chance to know the real you, you never know what amazing things may happen.