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Amy Schneider’s ‘Jeopardy!’ Run is Breaking Barriers for Women and Trans People

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Oakland's Amy Schneider charming America with her infectious smile during a behind-the-scenes 'Jeopardy!' interview. (YouTube/ @Jeopardy!)

An Oakland resident is now the first woman—and one of only four people ever—to win over a million dollars on Jeopardy! And with 29 wins under her belt (and counting), there’s no telling how far Amy Schneider will go.

The engineering manager was already the first transgender person to qualify for the game show’s prestigious Tournament of Champions. But on Friday, Jan. 7, Schneider pushed her winnings into seven figures—$1,019,600 to be precise—by successfully answering a question about Norwegian literature. (The answer, incidentally, was “Who is Heyerdahl?”)

Now, after nearly three months on one of TV’s most popular syndicated shows, Schneider has also become one of the most recognizable trans women in the country. The fame has led to online abuse—but it’s also opened the minds of some unlikely folks in the show’s audience.

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Schneider’s identity as a trans woman has been touched on only briefly within the confines of the show. Her most prominent gesture came during the week of Thanksgiving, when she wore a small trans flag pin.

She initially made a few comments on Twitter about the decision to do so:

Later, Schneider elaborated on her flag pin during a special behind-the-scenes segment for Jeopardy!. “Thanksgiving is a time for family,” she explained, “and sadly, it’s still true for a lot of trans people that that can be difficult for them. That they may have a difficult relationship with their families. I’m fortunate not to have that issue myself, but I know it’s out there, so I just wanted to send that message of support.”

Schneider’s message was received loud and clear. One viewer named Cassandra noted on Twitter that her non-binary child was “walking taller and feeling good” simply because of Schneider’s daily visibility on their television screen.

In addition to her amazing intellect, Schneider just seems—well—cool. A Warriors fan since she first moved to the Bay in 2009, she showed up at the Chase Center to witness Klay Thompson’s return on Jan. 9.

Schneider was also quick to brush off the widely reported robbery she was subjected to, at gunpoint, on Jan. 2. She tweeted only that she would be a little less active on social media as she got the contents of her wallet back in order. (“I’m fine,” she wrote.)

What’s more, a December essay for Defector titled “How I Got Smart” proved Schneider to be disarmingly self-aware, and in possession of a charming sense of humor. In it, she noted:

Given my traditional Catholic upbringing, I obviously can’t just let somebody compliment me without resistance. If I just go around letting people praise me willy-nilly, what’s next? Having self-worth? Pursuing my dreams? Pre-marital sex?!?!

She went on:

I am white, and until well into adulthood, was perceived as male. Had that not been the case, my intelligence would have been seen as surprising at best, and threatening at worst … I was never discouraged from acquiring knowledge. (Well, almost never; I was strongly discouraged from acquiring any knowledge whatsoever about human sexuality, with … mixed results.)

So what’s next for Amy Schneider? Well, as of yesterday, she’s only three wins away from matching James Holzhauer’s record and nine wins from matching Matt Amodio’s. Ken Jennings’ 74-game streak will prove a little tougher to beat. If she manages it though, the Bay—and the rest of the country—will surely be cheering her on.

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