Transgender Parkite Cami Richardson’s memoir asks ‘Do You Know Who I Once Was?’
What: Cami Richardson book signing
When: 6 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 16
Where: Dolly’s Bookstore, 510 Main St.
Parkite Cami Richardson says the goal of her memoir “Do You Know Who I Once Was?” is to help people understand who she is today.
Richardson, a local trans woman, tells her story that goes from her start as a New York City firefighter to her tenure as CFO of American Skiing Company and executive director of Temple Har Shalom.
At that time, many people knew her as Tom, but that changed when Caitlyn Jenner came out as transgender in 2015, and Richardson felt she could no longer suppress her true self.
“That was a turning point for me to say I can’t keep myself hidden,” said Richardson, 66. “I’m glad I did. I don’t have any regrets.”
Richardson will sign copies of her book at 6 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 16, at Dolly’s Bookstore, 510 Main St. The book is currently available in digitally and paperback on Amazon.
In addition to telling her story, Richardson hopes the book will give hope to people who feel marginalized, in denial or currently questioning their gender.
“If someone reads it and says, ‘If she can do it, I can do it,’ then I’ve won,” she said.
Richardson decided to write a memoir after she retired from Temple Har Shalom in 2016, and it was a bigger task than she expected.
“It’s one of those projects that you think you can blow right through, but it takes more time, effort and energy to do,” she said.
Richardson knew she wanted to tell a story about her successful careers, coupled with coming out as transgender.
“I felt like I could put it all together chronologically through my timeline, and show where I was while hiding my gender issues,” she said.
The chapters, while short, not only shed light on Richardson’s journey to come out, but also document the lesson she learned about herself on the way.
“Back in the ‘50s, ‘60s and ‘70s, no one know what trans was,” she said. “There was no internet, and there wasn’t anyone I could talk with. So I kept avoiding it. It wasn’t until the past 15 years I could really understand what I was, and if I knew what I know today, I probably would have come out years ago.”
The 33-chapter book would have been longer if Richardson’s editor, Jill Dearman, hadn’t reined her in.
“She said there are too many stories about the firehouse and ski career, and told me to focus more about the transitioning,” Richardson said. “So I pulled a bunch out, but I kept in some good and interesting chapters for people to give them a sense of who I am.”
The crux of the book is the series of events that led up to Richardson’s coming out.
“At that time I was told (by Temple Har Shalom board member Barry Baker) to come out full time at the temple, and an article was published in The Park Record,” she said. “So it kind of happened at once, and I felt like I could move on.”
Throughout the book, Richardson writes about her wife, Teri Cook, who has stayed with her throughout her transition.
Richardson told Cook about her questioning of her gender identity in 2009, and, after much deliberation, the couple decided it was time in 2016 for Cami to come out publicly.
After coming out, Richardson knew many people would have questions.
“I have made it my mission to help them understand what it means to be trans,” she said.
Another misperception that of transgender peoples’ identity.
“There is a perception that most trans women are interested in men,” she said. “There are others who are bisexual or gay, but in my case, I’m still heterosexual. I have a wonderful wife and that’s where I want to be.”
Richardson said he has learned that most transgender marriages fail.
“You have to work at it, like any marriage,” she said. “Teri and I are exceptions. She’s a special person.”
Richardson also still enjoys the relationships she shares with her adult daughters and her grandchildren.
“Some of my grandkids’ classmates are trans, and they aren’t afraid to introduce me to their friends,” she said.
Some people, even longtime friends and family members, have not accepted the transition, regardless of how hard she has tried to communicate with them, according to Richardson.
“My wife’s mother refuses to talk to me and see me, and her brothers and their families are the same,” she said. “Unfortunately, I’ve had to shut them out of my life. And Teri has been really good with that, and she still has a good relationship with her family.”
Still, Richardson said Park City was the best place to come out.
“I find literally no resistance, and the acceptance is abundant,” she said. “People who knew me as Tom from my involvement with different businesses and organizations in the community, never call me Tom when I see them.”
Richardson has talked with high schools and has had parents of transitioning teens ask her to meet their children.
“Teens are so unsure of themselves and they’re being bullied and wondering if they can survive this all,” Richardson said. “I want to be a shining light and tell them, ‘Yes. You can survive. And you can thrive.’”
Richardson is also developing a “CAMITalk” that she wants to present to organizations in Summit County.
“One of my careers in the fire department was (as) a training officer, so it’s been ingrained in me that if I know something, I will probably try to help you understand more about it,” she said. “Plus, I’ve always had a personality that is pretty outgoing and not afraid to talk with people.”
Richardson feels it’s her responsibility to build as many bridges as she can these days.
“My mission is more important now than ever,” she said. “I try to do it in a positive way so those who don’t understand or don’t like it will try and think about what’s the harm in living the life I want to live. I will continue to promote and support the LGBTQ community, and what I believe is right in our country. If I can leave a positive impact one person at a time, I’m accomplishing my goal.”
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