ABOVE: Cami Richardson. (Photo from Facebook)
SALT LAKE CITY (AP) | Standing in her red uniform and sunglasses, Cami Richardson was one of the first people skiers saw this season after riding the cabriolet up to Park City Mountain Resort.
“I love your outfit! Outfit of the day!” Richardson yelled to a skier wearing a teal and magenta leopard print jumpsuit on a day in late February. Jesse Iglesias of Seattle laughed and stopped to take a picture with her. “If I’m going to go, I’m going to go all out,” Iglesias told Richardson.
Later that day, Richardson joked with a customer in the rental shop about whether the high heels the woman was wearing would snap into her ski bindings. And she high-fived the line of children heading out of the Grand Summit Hotel to their lesson.
It’s interactions like these that have motivated Richardson to work as a greeter at the resort for the last three years, The Salt Lake Tribune reported.
“I want people to have a different perception of the trans community. I want to be a good example for people,” said Richardson, 66. “I like being out in front of people, and I want to make a difference in their day-to-day lives.”
Richardson came out full time as a transgender woman in 2016, when she was 63. Since then, she’s made it her mission to be an advocate for the LGBTQ community and make sure people have positive interactions with a transgender person.
Originally from New York, Richardson was a firefighter before she worked her way up to the position of chief financial officer at American Skiing Company. In the late 1990s, she helped the business acquire part of the Park City ski resort where she works today.
“Throughout that whole time, there was this secret Cami underneath it all that I kept fighting off,” she said. Richardson detailed this struggle and her path through a series of careers in her memoir published last year, “Do You Know Who I Once Was? A Story of an Unlikely Journey to be One’s True Self.”
Richardson eventually left American Skiing Company, and after a series of entrepreneurial ventures, she is now retired and lives in Kamas, while working some side jobs. In the summer, Richardson works as a player service representative — or as she describes it, a “glorified cart girl” — at Canyons Golf. And in the winter, she makes about $11 an hour as a ski resort greeter.
While the vast majority of her interactions with people have been positive, Richardson has met some resistance and been misgendered more times than she cares to count. She remembers a man who came to ski in Park City and “wanted to be combative,” insisting she “can’t be” transgender. She said she calmly told him, “OK, that’s your opinion. But mine is that I’m trans. You can believe what you want. I’m going to believe what I want.”
Some longtime friends and family decided they didn’t want to get to know Cami after she transitioned, which hurt, she said. But there are others who have supported her, including her “amazing” wife of 26 years, Teri Cook, to whom Richardson dedicated her book. “When she said during our wedding vows, ‘Till death (do) us part,'” Richardson wrote, “she meant it.”
Richardson’s fellow greeters at the ski resort have been welcoming, too, especially Bountiful resident Rick Call. Call, who’s 68 and a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, said he thinks it’s what Jesus would want.
“It just makes you feel good that people go out of their way to say hi, they acknowledge you, and to be accepted. I feel really blessed that I’m in Park City,” Richardson said.
Richardson tries to get out in the community as much as possible to do what she’s dubbed her “Cami talks.” Earlier this month, she spoke to Park City High School students, and last month, she visited Temple Har Shalom. She’s also on the board of Transgender Education Advocates of Utah.
As the end of the ski season neared, Richardson thought about the long, cold days on the mountain when she questions why she’s working an entry-level job. But then she remembers a moment from her first year as a greeter.
“This woman was walking along out here with her baby,” Richardson said, and they started chatting. “We’re wrapping up, and I look at the woman, and I said, ‘So, someday when your daughter is old enough to know what it means, you can tell her she met her first transgender woman at 18 months old.’ And the woman looks at me, and she goes,’ … I just did, as well.'”
Richardson said she “was so touched” by this that she told the woman she hoped she left “a good impression.” The woman, according to Richardson, said she “most definitely” did.
“I knew what my mission was all year, and it was the last day when this person said that to me. I started crying in my car, thinking, ‘This is why I do what I do,'” Richardson said.