If you already re-activated the email account, just re-initiate the transfer and it should be okay -- even without changing the email address in the WHOIS info.
I'd guess that most registrars would have a "pending transfer status" section somewhere in the control panel, where it would list options like re-initiate, or resend authorization email.
Also, make sure the domain is unlocked before doing the transfer, or it will fail anyway.
In the meantime, you can just update your nameservers to point here if you want to get the site up and running at Dreamhost, then work out the transfer process. (ns1.dreamhost.com, ns2.dreamhost.com, ns3.dreamhost.com)
Save up to $96 at Dreamhost with ALMOST97 promo code (I get $1).
Or save $97 with THEFULL97.