Stonewalling Emotion

Narrat Inq Bioeth. 2015 Summer;5(2):143-50. doi: 10.1353/nib.2015.0045.


This commentary is an exploration of emotion by a therapist. It focuses on how emotion is managed in the stories of growing up and living with atypical sex anatomies--how (much) is emotion (not) discussed, and what are the effects of forestalling emotive dialogue. Emotion care in the narratives is often sidelined in favor of medical doings. Rather than creating a haven to keep normative pressures at bay, so as to enable the affected parents, adolecents and adults to process their situations, some of the storytellers reveal how medicine has concentrated its efforts on the erasure and silencing of their bodily differences. The most frequently mentioned emotion management strategy is 'stonewalling', as some of the affected children and adults were silently left to take in what was reflected in the eyes of the large number of people inspecting their naked bodies. Emotional suffering continued for many years for some individuals. An apology might ease suffering but is rarely bestowed. Learning to become more comfortable with emotion may open up more possibilities for helpful conversations between care users and providers and within families. Feelings of joy became more available to the storytellers who as adults learned to embrace their differences and connected with like-minded people.

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological*
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Disorders of Sex Development* / psychology
  • Emotions*
  • Female
  • Gender Identity*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Parents / psychology
  • Physician-Patient Relations / ethics*
  • Stress, Psychological / etiology*
  • Transgender Persons / psychology*