Transform goes beyond clothing with a welcoming space for transgender kids

Being in middle school is tough.

“Tweenhood, which starts around age 9, is horrifying for a few reasons … And many kids face new schools and a new set of rules for how to act, both socially and academically,” according to a recent Atlantic article written by Alia Wong.

If a child at this age determines that they are not the gender that feels right for them, the struggling — at home, at school, with friends and family, and with mental health — mounts.

Which is why Nancy Dawson determined that, for trans children, she will do her part to make life more manageable.

She experienced her daughter’s own transformation, which became the impetus for Transform, which she started with Tristan Vaught and Marissa Fine. 

She is a lifelong professional stylist and makeup artist. Although born in Atlanta, she has called Cincinnati home for decades, owns the successful wedding makeup business called BRIDEface, and is raising four children here.

She understands the role that appearance plays in life and the challenges that kids confront. Having the right wardrobe makes a significant difference.

Transform commenced two weeks ago as a location in which kids who are transitioning from one gender to another can bring in the clothes that do not work for them and trade them for ones that do. Transform stylists help to find their new look.

“When you can’t be what you want to be, then you need lots of things,” Dawson says. “You go through incarnations in style. I anticipate us having people come back more than once as they develop their look. It is hard to ease in to who you are going to be.”

“Everyone is coming in to drop off clothes,” she continues. “Parents of trans kids … and allies.”

Transform was a simple but critical idea that has quickly taken off with full support from “Living with Change,” the organization started by Pure Romance.

It was started in the back room of BRIDEface. Dawson is already outgrowing the space and will move to a storefront shortly. It’s current location near the School for Creative and Performing Arts (SCPA) encourages the work of teen stylists, so Dawson plans to remain close by.

“Kids need stylist that are their own age,” she says.

Her concept includes all kids, no matter if they have items to trade or not. “If the kid has nothing to give,” Dawson says, “we will outfit them.”

While Transform’s initial goal includes donations of clothing, they also will gladly accept cash or anything off their Amazon Wishlist.

She has also worked closely with GLSEN. GLSEN’s mission is to ensure that every member of every school community is valued and respected regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression.

“We [have] been accepting special occasion dresses,” she says. “Lots of these kids go to the GLSEN Galaxy Glam Prom. GLSEN gives them the opportunity to bust out and be themselves.”

“I have been working with trans women since my daughter came out,” she continues. “I have given lots of makeup lessons for kids who are interested. We have partnered with Bishop’s Hair Salon. They have two locations and provide free cuts.”

She is aware that not all parents are supportive and has been involved with the Transgender Health Clinic at Children’s Hospital as well.

“I see us serving transgender, non-binary individuals,” Dawson says. “Some of them may be accepted at home and come in with their parents. Some of the kids’ parents don’t even know … a healthy mix of kids need support. It is more than just clothes. [It’s] any way you can get [to] them and determine if they need support in other areas.”

She explains that some parents go through a grieving process. Some take longer than others. Some never get there.

Along the way, Dawson says, “I hope that we can be a source of support.”

Nancy Dawson is currently working with volunteers and donations. To learn more, visit the Transform Facebook Page or TransformCincy on Instagram. Please send questions to [email protected]. A full website will be launched shortly.


Enjoy this story? Sign up for free solutions-based reporting in your inbox each week.

Read more articles by Jennifer Mooney.

Jennifer Mooney is a reformed corporate communications senior executive. She has also worked in the advertising industry and founded The Mooney Group, LLC, a boutique public relations practice. She is an avid adventurer and traveler, which includes climbing/hiking, open water swimming, and downhill skiing. She is a downtown resident and is married to Donald Mooney. She has two grown daughters.