“Interview with Dawn Kelley Part 1 – It Wasn’t About Me: Supporting Your Child Through Transitioning”






“It Wasn’t About Me: Dawn Kelley on Supporting her Child Through Transitioning Part 1 of 2”

Interview with Dawn Kelley

Dawn Kelley is a local mom and traveling enthusiast.  A passion for people, a passion for storytelling, a passion for life…. an engaging speaker, a voracious laugh and a make you feel good personality…all descriptions people would use to identify her. 

Dawn has a reputation for being a strong, empathetic leader.  She volunteers for the Society for Human Resources Management and spent several years serving on the local Executive Board for Central Valley Human Resources Management Association.  She is a certified HR Professional with 25+ years of experience and is the Human Resources Manager at the City of Modesto.  

Dawn has a broad range of knowledge, specifically skilled in human resources management, leadership development, coaching/ supervision and recently became ordained to perform weddings!  

She has a determination to meet people where they are.  To help people be heard and to celebrate their accomplishments no matter the size…each one is taking a step in the right direction.

In September 2018, she was a featured TEDx speaker in the Central Valley speaking on Parental Resiliency.

She is the mom to two amazing, accomplished children, the wife to a wonderful man and a resilient woman who has a large group of trusted friends and confidants who have helped her on this journey.

To connect with Dawn, you can email her directly at Dawnkelleyhr@gmail.com

In this episode:

Dawn reflects on parenting, expectations, and important lessons learned through supporting her child through his transgender journey. She discusses how she moved from blame, denial, and a fear of how this reflected on her, to recognizing that it wasn’t about her at all. Hear Dawn’s story as she shares the importance of validating, listening, and supporting the emotional health of your child through their individual journeys.

“In fact, this little girl [my daughter] just told me She was meant to be a He. . . And, my fist response was ‘Well, that’s not happening.’ ” – Dawn Kelley, TedX Modesto

It Wasn’t About Me

Dawn shares her initial reactions and fears when her daughter Morgan first shared, “She was meant to be a He.” And, in complete transparency, shares her first thought was, “It was about me.”

Dawn recognizes that when her then daughter first shared her desire to be male, Dawn’s initial response wasn’t about her child at all, but about herself and how it would affect her life. Dawn states,  

“There’s no way.”

“My husband isn’t going to go for that, my friends are going to go for that.”

“What’s my Dad going to think?”

Dawn discusses her process of recognizing that her initial response to her child’s request was actually dismissive, and how she had to put herself aside in order to truly listen to and hear her child’s words.


Dawn opens up about her immediate need to blame others and media for, “Putting those kinds of shows on and making kids think its okay to change your gender.” The immediate desire to dismiss her child’s statements on transitioning and attribute it to a phase or fad. She discusses her individual process in understanding that this was not a phase or fad but, in fact, her child seeking her support in a highly emotional process. It took time to accept the many changes that came with supporting the emotional health of her child through his transitioning, but she ultimately recognized it was a process and that’s okay. Because ultimately,

“It didn’t matter what anybody thought, because that’s still my kid.” – Dawn Kelley

Renaming your Transgender Child

Dawn then discusses the various things that emerged that she had not considered in this process of transitioning including the re-naming of her child, per her child’s request.

He [Parker] told me, “Morgan is tied to who I was before, and maybe who I didn’t ever feel comfortable in. . . Moving into a new name allows me to explore who I am.” – Dawn Kelley

The Emotional and Social Struggles of Supporting your Child through Gender and Sexuality Expression

Exploring your identity and finding yourself is not always easy as a child, teen, or young adult, especially among peers or within school settings.  Dawn discusses the social and emotional challenges that emerged with her child including:

– Self-harming behaviors such as cutting

– Thoughts of suicide

– Hospitalization   

Dawn reminds her child, “We’re in this together and we’re going to figure this out. This is not going to be something you’re going to face on our own.” – Dawn Kelley

Dawn also shares the importance of checking in with your child’s emotional wellbeing and offering support.

“Every teenager in the World whether they’re having any sexual gender expression, they’re keeping stuff from you. They’re keeping it from you because it’s painful, it’s embarrassing, there’s judgement. . . they don’t want to disappoint you. They don’t want you to know that someone teased them at school that day, they don’t want you to think they’re stupid, unlike, or don’t have friends or not popular. All of that is what’s in these teenagers’ minds. And they’re just trying to go to school and come home.” – Dawn Kelley

Gender Expectations

As parents, we immediately begin setting expectations on our children based on gender. Expectations on looks, academics, sports, clothing, and more. Dawn reminds us to be mindful of the gender expectations we communicate through they toys we buy, statements we make, or clothes we put on them, because ultimately our children are their own individuals.

Join us next Monday for part 2 of our interview with Dawn Kelley.

Resources mentioned:

We’ve pulled together any resources mentioned in this episode and put together some links:

Unleash the power of resilience as you learn to recover and move forward | Dawn Tacker | TEDxModesto

Thank you for allowing us into your lives and helping us make mental health more relatable and a part of your everyday conversation! For more information or to access all episodes visit therpaistsuncut.com.

Who we are:

Nikki Young is co-host of Therapists Uncut and a Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist. Nikki keeps it personable. Nikki keeps it personable and professional. Yet, she always manages to keep the Therapists Uncut family and followers laughing. You may find her squirreling through topics, stories, or jokes, and all in good fun. Don’t worry because someone (usually Jolene) will bring her back around to the conversation. Nikki is a licensed marriage and family therapist in her private practice located in Modesto, CA, and she is also a Crisis Junkie at heart. In addition to being co-owner of a group private practice, she is also a crisis clinician responding to local mental health crisis and emergencies. Learn more about Nikki at catalystcounselinginc.com

Alyssa Najera is co-host of Therapists Uncut and a Licensed Clinical Social Worker. Alyssa is typically calm and composed on most days, but often has difficulty containing her excitement about the little things in life. She can sometimes drift into daydreaming about the endless possibilities in life and usually the last one of the group to understand Nikki and Jolene’s punchlines.  She loves to laugh, spread positivity, and is often caught with a smile on her face. Alyssa is also a Child Welfare Services (CWS) social worker and supervisor alumni, previous child sexual abuse forensic interviewer, and owner and CEO of a group private practice in the small town of Oakdale, CA. Learn more about Alyssa at smalltowncounselingca.com or alyssanajera.com.

Jolene Daly is co-host of Therapists Uncut and a Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist. Jolene is a seasoned therapist and private practice owner. She grew up in the Turlock, CA and Modesto, CA area most of her adult life and has been married to her comedian of a husband Jason for 20 years.  She is a genuine, authentic person with a bold personality. You’ll often catch Jolene challenging our listeners and her fellow co-hosts, as she is passionate about her personal and professional values and is vocal when it comes to speaking out for what’s right. Learn more about Jolene at dalymft.com.


Thank you for joining Therapists Uncut, a production of AMP Smart Business. To learn more about Therapists Uncut and stay up on upcoming episodes, please subscribe and follow us on social media. As a reminder, although the Therapists Uncut co-hosts are licensed therapists, they are not your therapist. This podcast is not intended to substitute professional mental health counseling. If you need professional therapy, please contact your local provider or primary care provider.  Thanks for listening and we’ll see you on the next episode of Therapists Uncut!

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Therapists Uncut is a production of AMP Smart Business.

Voice Over by Alexia Gloria