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‘Jeopardy!’ winner Amy Schneider chosen as Sonoma County Pride Parade’s grand marshal

Amy Schneider, an Oakland software engineer who earlier this year became the most successful woman to compete on “Jeopardy!”, will serve as the first transgender grand marshal for the Sonoma County Pride Parade next month.

Schneider’s 40-game winning streak, the second-longest in the show’s history, ended in January. She left with $1.3 million in winnings, the 11th highest among the show’s contestants.

Her record-setting run coincided with an uptick in anti-LGBTQ+ legislation across the country, a large share of which specifically targets the transgender community.

But what stood out to Schneider as she progressed on the show was “how powerful it’s been to be seen” as a transgender woman on TV, she said. Transphobia is most often rooted in people’s unfamiliarity with transgender people, or being raised to think “it’s just weird,” Schneider added.

“The whole experience on ‘Jeopardy!’ made me more optimistic about the trajectory of things in our country, just seeing how easy it was for people to warm up to me,” said Schneider, 42. “I think trans-acceptance is a one-way street. People don’t go from acceptance to nonacceptance, so momentum is on our side.”

On June 4, Schneider will preside over the 36th annual Sonoma County Pride Parade in downtown Santa Rosa, the first openly transgender person to do so, said Cheryl Kabanuck, the parade’s coordinator.

(How to celebrate Pride Month in Sonoma County)

About 50 groups will participate in the event, among them representatives from the city of Santa Rosa, the Sonoma County Commission on Human Rights and Ensamble Folclórico Colibrí, a Mexican folklore dance group, Kabanuck said.

“To have this transgender woman being out there, being herself and having people out there loving her, rooting for her, it gave me chills,” Kabanuck said of Schneider’s run on “Jeopardy!” and why she selected her as the parade’s grand marshal.

The parade is one of several local events planned for June, which is known as Pride Month.

The month honors the Stonewall Inn uprising, a series of demonstrations following the June 28, 1969, police raid at the popular gay bar in New York City. Those demonstrations were seen as a catalyst for the gay rights movement, though it built on earlier activism by the LGBTQ+ community in the U.S.

Healdsburg Mayor Osvaldo “Ozzy” Jimenez, a member of the LGBTQ+ community and an honoree for the parade, said it was the work of those activists who came before him that have allowed him to “feel safe and visible in my community.”

The parade provides an opportunity for community healing after a challenging couple of years, he added.

“We’re coming out of the pandemic and many LGBTQ+ people really struggled with mental health during the pandemic,” Jimenez said. “It’s been very challenging for queer people to not be around each other, so having a safe space to come together post-pandemic is really important.”

The theme for this year’s pride celebration, “We Are Family,” represents reunion following the coronavirus pandemic, Kabanuck said.

“We’re all coming back together as this family that’s been separated for a while,” Kabanuck said. “We wanted a thing that felt warm and made us feel like we’re all here.”

Sonoma County Pride, the organization that puts on the parade, will kick off this year’s Pride Month festivities by raising the gay pride flag on June 1 at Santa Rosa’s Rosenberg Building near Old Courthouse Square.

The annual parade will then run from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Fourth Street near Old Courthouse Square. There will be a festival at the square from noon to 5 p.m. that will include DJs and dance performances.

More information about the 2022 Sonoma County Pride Parade, and other related events, can be found at sonomacountypride.org.

You can reach Staff Writer Nashelly Chavez at 707-521-5203 or nashelly.chavez@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @nashellytweets.

Nashelly Chavez

Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, The Press Democrat 

Who calls the North Bay home and how do their backgrounds, socioeconomic status and other factors shape their experiences? What cultures, traditions and religions are celebrated where we live? These are the questions that drive me as I cover diversity, equity and inclusion in Sonoma County and beyond.   

 

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