There’s been some historic transgender and bisexual representation recently on the beloved game show Jeopardy!
The last few episodes taped before longtime host Alex Trebek’s death in November are being aired now, and they have featured out trans champ Kate Freeman, who wore a trans pride flag pin on her jacket lapel, and bi contestant Cody Lawrence, who sported a bisexual pride flag lapel pin.
Neither discussed those aspects of their identity on the show, but the pins made it clear to those in the know, and they have addressed the subject in interviews afterward. Some past Jeopardy! contestants have spoken about being in same-sex relationships, but the appearances by Freeman and Lawrence are milestones in trans and bi visibility.
“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,” Freeman, a Michigan native who now lives in Los Angeles, told MLive, a site for several Michigan newspapers. “I’m proud to be out and I know representation is important.”
She is believed to be the first out trans winner on the show. Jeopardy! fan and former champion Jennifer Morrow tweeted that one champ from the 1990s transitioned after being on the program.
Freeman was a one-day champion — she won in the episode that aired Friday, then lost Monday. But it was a thrill being on the show, she said.
“It was really cool to get the behind-the-scenes view of how TV gets made, and it was impressive to see how the crew adapted their practices and protocols to keep everyone safe and socially distant while producing the show,” Freeman, who works as a financial specialist for Edison International, told MLive. “Competing was equal parts thrilling and nerve-racking. Getting that buzzer timing right is so much harder than it seems when watching at home. It really lived up to my childhood dreams of being on the show. I was honored to be able to meet Alex before his passing.”
Lawrence came in third in his episode, which aired December 8. He tweeted that day about wearing the bi pride pin; he appears to have been the first contestant to display it.
Lawrence, an editor who lives in the Los Angeles neighborhood of Sherman Oaks, noted that he has known he was bisexual for years but that the tendency to erase bi people made it difficult to be out.
“The bi segment of the LGBTQ+ community isn't quite as visible as the rest of it, both within the community and outside of the community,” he told Today. “Obviously, the LGBTQ+ community as a whole has difficulty with visibility, but I feel like we get lost in the shuffle. A lot.”
He said there’s been positive response to his visibility, making him “overjoyed and elated.” One young person who uses they/them pronouns sent him a message saying they teared up over his appearance.
“They’re ostensibly out to their parents,” he told Today. “They’re in a weird part of the country where people aren’t accepted as much. And even though their parents are aware of their sexuality, they feel like they’re not really acknowledged and they feel like [their sexuality] is not treated as valid in their household. They said they started crying when they saw my pin. That’s huge.”