Amy Schneider and Why Representation Matters

| Dec 13, 2021
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Amy Schneider

As I write these words Amy Schneider is on a thirteen-game winning streak on Jeopardy!, banking more than half a million dollars. She is now the fifth-place winner of all time in the long history of the popular game show. This does my heart, and many others, good in so many ways.

I’m a 62-year-old woman who finally came out to the world as transgender four years ago, about a year after Amy had started her own transition.

Schneider recently said she wanted to “send a positive message to the nerdy trans girl.” That sent ripples of joy and regret through my heart. Back in the 1960s, when the original Jeopardy! was airing as part of NBC’s daytime lineup, I couldn’t wait for summer vacation. Most of my classmates wanted to play outdoors all day. Not me. I wanted to watch classic sitcoms and Jeopardy!.

During my elementary/middle school years, my teachers were puzzled why I was dipping my nose into an encyclopedia every chance I could get. I wanted to know enough to be a Jeopardy! contestant. But while I just dreamed about it, Amy and others eventually ended up doing something to make that dream happen.

She says she grew up in conservative Ohio with a distorted idea of what being transgender was. How many of us in pre-internet days, isolated and alone, could say the same thing? She says it was only after her move to the San Francisco Bay area that her eyes were opened to what being trans really meant.

There have been other transgender contestants on the venerable game show and last December Kate Freeman became the first out trans champion—but Amy’s run has been incredible. She’s the first transgender person to qualify for the show’s Tournament of Champions. It’s wonderful, it’s incredible, and I look forward to how far she can go.

As I cheer Amy’s future, I can’t help but look back wistfully at the shy, awkward and lonely child and wonder what her life had been like had there been an Amy Schneider half a century ago.  Maybe as a young woman, she would have stood at a podium, squinting into the bright studio lights, game buzzer in hand, ready to pounce on opportunity.

I’d intellectually known the phase “representation matters” long before my own transition, but I don’t think I really understood the powerful emotions that go with that statement. But now I know.

Representation really matters.

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Category: Transgender Opinion

Claire H.

About the Author ()

Claire Hall was born and grew up in a large city on the left coast and has spent most of her adult years in a beautiful small coastal community where she's now an elected official in local government after spending many years as a newspaper and radio reporter. In her space time she loves reading, writing fiction (her first novel was published by a regional press a couple of years ago), watching classic Hollywood movies, and walking.

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