In a new interview with Teen Vogue, Jeopardy! champion Amy Schneider, trans activist Zaya Wade and It Gets Better Project youth ambassador Zach Koung weighed in on the importance of supporting LGBTQ youth in school and creating more inclusive communities.
For Schneider, whose historic 40-day Jeopardy! run earned her nearly $1.4 million and a growing community of fans, the responsibility of representing the trans community on the show was not something she took lightly.
"It felt amazing," Schneider said. "I was expecting a lot worse, a lot more negativity… but far, far more support and affirmation. That really taught me that we have come a lot farther than I had even thought."
Schneider said during her Jeopardy! run, she "felt a certain responsibility to be my best self and represent the trans community well."
"But I was also worried about that in the sense that I don't want to present a 'too perfect' image of myself because I want everyone to be able to see that whether or not you are good at trivia, whether or not you have a lot of followers on social media, any of those things, you still deserve and can find the same acceptance, the same affirmation and freedom to express who you are," she explained.
As far as the future, Schneider said she wants people to have a larger focus on allyship and initiatives like the It Gets Better 50 States. 50 Grants. 5000 Voices grant, which closes its submission window on March 15.
"To keep in mind from an ally perspective, it's a very big deal for the person coming out, but it doesn't really mean anything to you, with the possible exception of changing pronouns or things like that," she explained. "They have been what they are coming out as the whole time you've known them and nothing has changed. That's something I think people should keep in mind."
Meanwhile, Wade, whose dad NBA star Dwyane Wade and stepmom Gabrielle Union have been vocal supporters of trans rights, spoke about the importance of having family support.
"I like to think of my family as my big support group, my community," she said. "I think they show up for me every day, whether it's being there for me when I feel down or when there is a lot of LGBTQ+ hate out in the world."
“Throughout my entire journey, whether that be my gender expression or sexuality, I kinda felt I always had to tell someone something, to do this or say that, and it was a lot," she added of her coming out experience. "I do think there is a lot more representation and more opportunity to reflect inwards based on how they are and how you can truly be you. I think it's a lot better, obviously, there is a long way to go, but I do think that more representation does allow for more positivity and awareness of oneself."
When it comes to balancing the negatives of being in the public eye, Wade says it really comes down to allyship.
"The expectation for anyone who has to represent the LGBTQ+ community is a lot and there is a lot of pressure there," Wade explained. "Having someone or a group of people really helps me see the positives, while also recognizing the negatives, and rise above them because I am me and no one is going to tell me otherwise anymore."
Wade also recognizes the power her platform holds in helping others find community.
"Being an influencer means for me is just so more people can learn to accept themselves, and others, and form other communities around the world," she said. "Social media has played a big role for me personally and I hope that it also plays a big role for others."
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