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"A few months ago, deep down, I simply did not believe that I could ever really be accepted for who I was," the record-breaking contestant wrote in a piece for the Jeopardy! website. "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."
Schneider, who is transgender, said she had prepared herself for rejection when her episodes aired, but she was happily surprised that it never came.
"Sure, there have been a few isolated voices trying to bring me down, but the overwhelming reaction has been of support and acceptance," Schneider wrote. "People actually believe me when I say who I am. They don't think there's something wrong with me. 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."
She explained that, although she's more than her trans identity, that has been the "source of easily the biggest rewards I've gotten from this experience." And she thanked transgender women and men who helped make it possible for her to have it.
"The acceptance I've received is the fruit of long, violent struggles — some famous, some forgotten — in which generations of trans people have risked their lives to secure their basic right to exist. Frances Thompson and Billy Tipton, Lili Elbe and Dora Richter, Sylvia Rivera and Felicia Elizondo, Laverne Cox and Gavin Grimm, and so many more who are lost to history, have devoted themselves to creating the conditions that exist today, where a trans Jeopardy! champion can be, for most people, uncritically accepted and celebrated as the person she is," Schneider reflected. "And the most rewarding thing I've gained from my Jeopardy! run is the ability to finally say that I, too, have helped that cause. I haven't thrown rocks at the police, or fought for my rights in the Supreme Court; all I've really done is chase a lifelong dream of appearing on Jeopardy!. But I knew that I was taking on a burden of representation, and I will always and forever be proud to say that I've done my little part to ease the path for future generations of trans people to live free, open, and happy lives, and that feeling is worth more to me than any financial gain could ever be."
Still, she added, she's keeping the cash! She already knows just how she wants to spend it.
"We're gonna go to Ireland and go on a little bit of a shopping spree, get some designer clothes, and things like that," she told Extra on Thursday. "For the most part, we're holding out for it to become a mortgage."