Social Justice Jeopardy!

A Year of Essays: January 16, 2022

I was a fan of Jeopardy! back when Art Fleming hosted. I dreamed of being on the game show, and once made it to the in-studio auditions in the late ’80s. Two of the five in my group made it on the show at the end of the season. I still haven’t been called!

Before Alex Trebek died, I quipped that the longest relationship I had was with him — together half an hour, every weekday night, for over 35 years, with not one bad word between us. The show is not the same, nor should it be, without Alex.

Yet it’s been exciting to roll with it over the past year as guest hosts have their tryouts, scandals plague wannabe Alexes, and three super champions have had (or are continuing to have) their reign. I never saw, though, Jeopardy! as a beacon for social justice until the appearance of the current champion, Amy Schneider.

JeopardyAmy, which is her Twitter handle, smashes the competition. JeopardyAmy is also openly transgender, though she has not (to today) spoken explicitly about it on the show. There have been symbolic references (a blue, pink, and white scarf; a transgender awareness pin), and once she talked about her tattoo, one of Princess Ozma from the L. Frank Baum Oz stories.

Princess Ozma, while an infant, was given to the witch Mombi, who transformed her into a boy (Tippetarius, or Tip) to prevent her from ascending the throne to rule Oz. Glinda the Good Witch found out, and good prevailed over evil, and Mombi turned Tip back into Ozma, who reigned in Oz. The girl who was a boy, turned back into a girl. JeopardyAmy made a quick comment about how the tattoo reflected her own story. And that was it.

She’s been on the show for almost seven weeks now (interrupted for two weeks by a tournament), and in that time, JeopardyAmy has done more for trans awareness than anything ever has. It’s true what people say — when we know someone who’s trans or queer or whatever, we begin to realize we are just like everyone else. We are normalized. This should be the norm, but, hey, if it works…

Response has been overwhelmingly positive in the mainstream media. Newsweek covered her first, then other news organizations started picking up the story. Some more trans- and homo-phobic media outlets have unsurprisingly written offensive stories, challenging JeopardyAmy’s title as “the winningest woman on Jeopardy!” She has started conversations in the home. My neighbor (my southern, Republican, Mormon “mother”) even surprised me by referring to JeopardyAmy as her. She doesn’t quite understand it, but she accepts it, and she’s excited to see each night’s episode.

JeopardyAmy is five days away from tying Matt Amodio’s second-place record of winning 38 consecutive regular season games (also in this current season). She’s a joy to watch. She’s wicked smart. She enjoys the competition. She holds her head high. And she’s funny. What a wonderful gift over the holidays! You go, Girl!



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David Russell Beach

David Russell Beach

David Beach is playwright/writer, director, dramaturg, and educator. He holds a PhD in education and an MFA in playwriting, and is a professor at Radford U.