For over 50 years, Jeopardy! has had audiences guessing different pieces of trivia and answering clues with a question. The death of longtime host Alex Trebek in November 2020 has devastated the Jeopardy! community, and many feel that whoever they find to replace him won’t be able to ever fill his shoes.
Still, the show must go on, and it has been with Jeopardy! champion Ken Jennings at the helm as interim host. And in the time since Trebek’s passing, the iconic quiz show has already broken new ground.
The latest ‘Jeopardy!’ contestant to make history
On Friday, December 11, 2020, Jeopardy! had an exciting new first. Kate Freeman was one of the three contestants that night, and the financial specialist from Lake Orion, Michigan won in Final Jeopardy with $5,599. She then appeared on the following Monday’s show and was defeated.
Freeman competed while wearing a transgender pride flag. While she didn’t discuss it throughout her time on the show, Freeman is the first out transgender person to win the long-running quiz show.
Freeman spoke about visibility and why she wanted to outwardly display her trans pride pin with Michigan news site MLive. “I spent a lot of time learning about and reflecting on my gender identity in grad school, coming out as transgender and lesbian a few months before graduating,” she said. “I’m proud to be out and I know representation is important.”
Kate Freeman isn’t the first trans ‘Jeopardy!’ winner
Freeman’s appearance on Jeopardy! came just two days after another contestant made waves by wearing a bisexual pride pin, highlighting another segment of the LGBTQ community that often receives less recognition and understanding.
Writer Peter Fox congratulated Freeman for her historic win in a tweet. “Mazel tov to Kate Freeman on winning Jeopardy! tonight,” he said. “I’m assuming this victory makes her the first openly trans person to win a game.”
Two-time Jeopardy! champ Jennifer Morrow replied to his tweet saying that there was one other known trans contestant in Jeopardy! history, but she used a different name and pronouns when she competed decades ago.
“There is at least one other J! champ who has publicly spoken about being trans, a multi-game winner in the 1990s, although she used a different name and pronouns during her run,” Morrow said.
‘Jeopardy!’s first trans contestant
That Jeopardy! champion is Catherine Ramen, who first competed on the show back in 1997 under a different name. Ramen reemerged in 2013 as one of the candidates fans could vote for to have return for Jeopardy!‘s Battle of the Decades competition.
“I was one of the youngest five-time champions (just 25 in 1997) and since then I’ve learned and experienced so much — I am a much stronger person and contestant nowadays,” Ramen said at the time.
“Of course, I could be a role-model for an under-represented minority on Jeopardy!” she continued. “While I don’t like to talk too much publicly about my experiences as a trans woman, I’d obviously be greatly honored to have a chance to represent my community, and other LGBT people, on Jeopardy!“
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