Amy Schneider will no longer light up screens as the reigning queen of Jeopardy! after the LGBTQ icon’s winning streak was finally broken.
The transgender engineering manager from Oakland, Ca., smashed records during her 40-game run, including amassing $1,382,800 million in earnings — making her the most successful trans and female contestant in Jeopardy! history.
Schneider also amassed one of the highest earnings totals, holds the second-longest consecutive winning streak, and became the first trans Jeopardy! competitor to qualify for the annual Tournament of Champions.
After dominating game after game since debuting during Transgender Awareness Week last year, Schneider’s streak was finally broken Wednesday by Rhone Talsma, a librarian from Chicago.
A Final Jeopardy question on Bangladesh tripped up Schneider, who had led up to that point, while Talsma — who is also LGBTQ — answered correctly to clinch the win.
Schneider said in a statement that it had been an “honor” to appear on Jeopardy!.
“To know that I’m one of the most successful people at a game I’ve loved since I was a kid and to know that I’m a part of its history now, I just don’t know how to process it,” she said.
Schneider had thought that Talsma “was going to be tough going into it.”
“I loved hanging out with him, we had great conversation before the taping, but I could tell that he was here to play and that he was going to be good,” she said. “I still came very close to winning, but I did feel like maybe I was slipping a little bit. And once it was clear that he was fast on the buzzer, I knew it was going to be a battle all the way.”
Speaking to the Associated Press, Schneider said that the reality of her run on the show was “still a little hard to believe. It’s something that I’m going to be remembered for, and that’s pretty great.”
— Jeopardy! (@Jeopardy) January 27, 2022
She also addressed her visibility as a transgender woman, and the impact it had on the show’s audience.
“The best outcome of all of this always is going to be whatever help I’ve been able to offer the trans community,” she said. “I’m here because of the sacrifices countless trans people have made, often to the extent of risking their lives. To do my part to move that cause forward, it’s really special.”
In an essay posted on the Jeopardy! website, Schneider expanded on her visibility as a trans woman, and the impact it has had both on her and viewers across the country.
“While, as I’ve said, my trans identity is only one part of myself, it has also been the source of easily the biggest rewards I’ve gotten from this experience,” she wrote. “The first one is personal: a few months ago, deep down, I simply did not believe that I could ever really be accepted for who I was. That is, I had come to believe (not without some difficulty) that at least some people accepted me: my family, my girlfriend, my inner circle of friends.
“But I always believed that most people would see me as trans people have so often been seen: a freak, a pervert, a man in a dress, a liar, mentally ill,” she continued. “And as the days counted down to my episodes airing, I braced myself for the rejection I was sure would come. And then… it just didn’t.”
Schneider noted that there had been “a few isolated voices trying to bring me down,” but that the “overwhelming reaction has been of support and acceptance.”
“People actually believe me when I say who I am. They don’t think there’s something wrong with me,” she wrote. “And because of that, for maybe the first time in my life, I’m starting to think there really isn’t anything wrong with me either.”
Nick Adams, GLAAD’s Director of Transgender Representation, cheered Schneider’s record-breaking run on Jeopardy!.
“Amy Schneider has given Jeopardy!‘s nine million plus nightly viewers a historic 40-game run full of masterful gameplay, while her media interviews and Twitter recaps of each game have given fans a glimpse into her life as a smart, charming transgender woman with a girlfriend and a rescue cat named Meep,” Adams said in a statement.
“Her visibility has been a bright spot, allowing millions of people to root for her success and start conversations about being transgender at a time when proposed bills in states like Arizona, Iowa, Indiana, Oklahoma, South Dakota, and Amy’s home state Ohio, are targeting transgender Americans for discrimination. Amy’s achievement will be celebrated for years to come by Jeopardy! fans and LGBTQ people everywhere.”
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