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    Mensa: Not Just for Nerds (But Mostly for Nerds)

    By Nguyen Pham–

    Alongside millions of others, I watched awestruck as Amy Schneider advanced and then concluded her recent historic winning streak on Jeopardy! In addition to her landmark contribution to trans visibility in the most-watched non-sports show on TV, something I found titillating was Amy Schneider’s frequent characterization as “having Mensa-worthy intelligence.”

    Mensa, as many know, is the world’s oldest and largest high-IQ society open to people who score in the top two percent of the general population on an accepted standardized intelligence test. Only one trait unites Mensa’s thousands of members—high intelligence—so member demographics run quite the gamut, including some proud queer people like yours truly (as well as possibly a quite-notable Absolute Empress of San Francisco whose name might rhyme with “Lana Cachet”).

    I gained entry into American Mensa in the summer of 2010 by passing a proctored exam that spring, and I immediately began engaging with many thousands of others of this nerdy ilk: “Mensans” as we’re affectionately known. Within a year, I earned the title of Mr. Mensa 2011, embarking on a years-long fundraising journey for the Mensa Foundation, a charitable organization separate from American Mensa—but equally fabulous—whose mission is to unleash intelligence for the benefit of humanity by providing scholarships and grants. By 2020, I had helped to raise north of $100,000 for the Foundation, and I was then invited onto and joined its Board of Trustees.

    In securing my place among this group of nerdy do-gooders, I incidentally became the first-ever openly queer Trustee of the Mensa Foundation. To meet this moment, in 2021 I established the Progress Pride Scholarship for students who identify as both BIPOC and LGBTQ and who have a demonstrated record of positive service to the BIPOC and LGBTQ communities. This effort raised $20,000 to fund two $10,000 scholarships, and I’m excited that we’ll be naming the worthy recipients of our inaugural Progress Pride Scholarship in the coming months for the ‘22–’23 scholastic year.

    Concurrently, I’m building on the success of this inaugural scholarship program by establishing the Progress Pride Fund of Mensa Foundation. The Progress Pride Fund will continue to shine a light on the unique challenges of those at the intersection of BIPOC and LGBTQ by providing scholarships and community grants in support of unleashing the intelligence of these marginalized, intersectional people.

    In the spirit of visibility and representation of the underrepresented, and in honor of my actual birthday today (more on that in today’s Coming Out Story), I invite everyone who can to provide a tax-deductible gift to the Progress Pride Fund of Mensa Foundation online ( ) today through the end of the month. I wager that Amy Schneider would approve.

    Nguyen Pham, Mr. Mensa 2011, can be reached at

    Published on February 24, 2022