Derek Frost on Pride and Prejudice

To quote from awarenessdays.com:
Pride Month is a month-long celebration that recognises the LGBTQ+ community and their contributions to society. It’s a time to acknowledge the challenges faced by this community and to stand in solidarity with their fight for equality, acceptance, and human rights.’

I’ve recently read two works of fiction based on fact – Radical Love by Neil Blackmore and The New Life by Tom Crewe. Both authors write about aspects of queer life in 19th century England – the first set at the very beginning of that century and the second at its end. Both books illustrate the appalling levels of prejudice aimed against what I prefer to call, in place of the ever expanding acronym, our queer community.

In many parts of the world little has changed.

In sixty five countries homosexuality remains a criminal offence and in seven UN member states punishable by death – a flagrant contravention of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. In many countries prejudice against our queer community grows at an alarming rate.

Read Masha Gessen on Russia where she claims the newly adopted gay propaganda law has ‘led to a huge increase in anti-gay violence, including murders.’ Read also Artic Summer, about E. M. Forster, by Booker Prize Winner Damon Galgot and what Forster himself observed about the challenges faced by queers in his lifetime – most particularly in his posthumously published masterpiece Maurice.

Two recently published books, The Glamour Boys by Chris Bryant and Never Silent by Peter Staley, serve to remind us why we should be proud of the many important contributions made by members of our queer community for the betterment of all – about extraordinary achievements in the face of extreme prejudice.

In our own country such prejudice now rarely exists – an amazing change. Look around, if you’re attending a Pride event in the UK. What you see is liberation, the support of the general population, equal rights and full protection for these rights. What you see is our queer community happily out and proud. Long may that remain the case. Be vigilant. Freedoms can be lost.

My message for Pride 2024:
Celebrate with pride. Fight against prejudice.


Thank you to Derek Frost for providing this blog post. Find his book Living and Loving in the Age of AIDS at all good book retailers.

© Derek Frost June 2024

A Brief History of Diverse Love by Dr Liat Yakir

Pride Week celebrates love in its many forms, transcending boundaries and highlighting the universal bonds that connect us. One fascinating aspect of love is its biochemical foundation, particularly the role of oxytocin—the “love Hormone” that creates all human (and all mammalian) relationships.

Oxytocin, often dubbed the “cuddle hormone,” is a peptide hormone produced in the hypothalamus and released by the pituitary gland. It plays a crucial role in social bonding, sexual reproduction, and during and after childbirth. Oxytocin acts as a natural facilitator of human connection, enhancing trust, empathy, and emotional intimacy between individuals.

During Pride Week, understanding the science behind love underscores the commonalities we share. Oxytocin’s effects are universal, affecting everyone regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity. This hormone’s influence begins at birth and during childhood. The surge of oxytocin during child rearing and caregiving promotes parental behaviors and strengthens the emotional tie, laying the foundation for the child’s future social interactions.

In romantic relationships, oxytocin is pivotal. It is released during moments of physical intimacy, such as hugging, kissing, and sexual activity. This release fosters a sense of closeness and attachment, which is crucial for maintaining long-term partnerships. Oxytocin reduces stress and promotes feelings of contentment and security, which are essential for sustaining healthy and loving relationships.

Pride Week also brings to light the diverse ways in which love manifests. Oxytocin doesn’t just facilitate romantic and familial bonds; it also enhances friendships and community connections. Group activities shared meals, and collective celebrations all trigger oxytocin release, reinforcing the importance of social cohesion and mutual support. In the context of Pride, these activities help forge a sense of belonging and solidarity within the LGBTQ+ community.

Moreover, oxytocin has a role in overcoming prejudice and fostering acceptance and empathy. Research indicates that oxytocin can promote pro-social behaviors and reduce fear responses, potentially lowering biases and encouraging inclusivity. By enhancing our ability to empathize and connect with others, oxytocin supports the core values of Pride Week: love, acceptance, and equality.

As we celebrate Pride Week, it is heartening to recognize that the biochemical basis of love and connection knows no bounds. Oxytocin reminds us that at our core, we are all wired for love, empathy, and connection, reinforcing the beautiful diversity and unity of the human experience.


This article was written by Dr Liat Yakir, author of A Brief History of Love which is available now at all good book retailers.

Visualizing the Future of Pride with Kodo Nishimura

Who are some of your role models within the LGBTQ+ community and why?

Anyone unafraid to be who they are can be a great role model. One of my role models is a professor at my art school, Parsons School of Design in New York. Growing up, I used to feel that being part of the LGBTQ+ community meant something unsophisticated, associated with sexual connotations and wild parties. However, my art professor was so poised, leading the Fine Arts Department I was in. He was stylish, wise, and well-respected. He was not shy at all about sharing the presence of his husband. This was different from the “stereotypical gay man” often negatively mocked in the Japanese media. His presence showed me that people from the LGBTQ+ community are diverse and limitless. I learned that there is nothing to hide about my sexuality, and I was able to come out proudly thanks to him. Now, I hope to show that a Buddhist monk can also be a proud homosexual with my existence.

What does Pride Month mean to you personally? 

We have to be proud of ourselves always, but having a reminder like Pride Month is a great way to reflect on how far we have come and the obstacles we still have to overcome. For example, in Japan, we still do not have the right to marriage equality. During the Pride Parade in Tokyo, people say “Happy Pride” as a slogan. Some criticize that we are not truly “happy” because we still lack certain rights. However, the situation in Japan is slowly improving. My motto is that, even in difficult situations, we should always work for equality, focusing on the happiness that can come from change, and trying to enjoy the process. I don’t want to ruin my everyday smiles with constant anger about injustice.

How do you envision the future of Pride Month celebrations? 

I think what we celebrate each year varies, depending on the events and progress of that year. I hope that in the future, we will be able to look back at the present and celebrate how much progress we have made. It is up to us to visualize and realize the future that we want to live in!

What message would you like to share with readers about the importance of self-acceptance?

I want to share my realization that we should always feel valuable and never feel inferior to others for any reason. One of the reasons Buddhism was introduced 2,500 years ago was to liberate people from discrimination. With my book, “This Monk Wears Heels: Be Who You Are,” I hope to share my personal stories of overcoming feelings of inferiority as a homosexual, along with the Buddhist teachings I learned from my monk training. My mission is to encourage you to follow your heart and shine in your own unique color.

Kodo Nishimura’s book This Monk Wears Heels: Be Who You Are is available now at all good book retailers. Follow his Instagram @kodomakeup to keep up with his latest endeavours.

Book Extract: She Fights Back by Joanna Ziobronowicz

As children, we are often told stories about good prevailing over evil, and about that elusive “happily ever after”. As little girls, we may be taught that if we’re obedient, we will be rewarded for our goodness. When we grow up, some of us realize that always conforming and always being kind can threaten our boundaries, shatter our sense of self-worth, and at times, expose us to trauma.

I wouldn’t be writing this book if I myself hadn’t fallen victim to detrimental cultural conditioning, psychological trauma and physical attacks that I had to overcome. It took many years and many uncomfortable life lessons to cultivate a strong sense of self-belief, as well as to acquire the valuable physical skills needed to protect myself, but these experiences were necessary in helping me understand what women need to do to keep themselves safe.

After years of working in the security sector, I’ve learned that in addition to relying on my martial arts skillset, it is also crucial to stay alert and keep a watchful eye over people and surroundings.

When I was working in security, threats could come from anyone and anywhere, often when I least expected them. All it took was one moment of inattention to be caught off-guard. However, over time, I found common patterns and warning signs that allowed me to spot and assess threats early on, leading to more efficient responses.

By watching my work colleagues handling conflicts, and also by getting involved in various physical interventions myself, I came to realize that some of the most critical aspects of self-defence are having confidence in your own abilities, and having conviction in your actions. I noticed that these qualities were primary drivers for performance, and for finding solutions when faced with highly triggering situations. Today, I know that I could teach you how to impeccably execute the most effective self-defence moves, but without the ability to assert yourself and without self-belief in your capabilities, they won’t be enough. 

I observed similar psychological aspects of performance during my sports career, both as a coach and as an active competitor in various martial arts. With over 23 years of training experience, I have seen that high performance is fuelled by incredibly strong self-belief, unwavering conviction, and a razor-sharp mindset. I’ve studied alongside world-class athletes, have competed at the highest level, and time and time again I’ve demonstrated, both to myself and those that I coached, that everything begins in the mind. I’ve seen exceptionally talented athletes freeze before tournaments, mentally giving up before even setting foot into the competition arena. I’ve learnt that a champion is made not just through appropriate physical preparation, but also through a strong mental drive toward their actions and achievements.

With this in mind, we should explore both the physical and psychological aspects of self-defence. If you want to win your battles, it’s time to acknowledge and build upon the confidence that will enable you to assert your rights, stand up for yourself, and stay physically prepared.


She Fights Back by Joanna Ziobronowicz is publishing July 9th 2024 and is available to pre-order now.

Behind The Cover – Make Good Trouble with Karen Smith

Last night (March 7th) was the The Academy of British Cover Design awards where Repeater designer Hollie Smith was nominated for the non-fiction category for the cover of Collapse Feminism. In honour of the awards, I spoke to Karen Smith, Head of Book Design at Watkins Media about the decisions behind the cover of Make Good Trouble, written by Briana Pegado.

The process of designing a book cover has several stages. First, the editorial team put together a brief for the designers so they have a better understanding of how they want the book to come across. The design team are also shown examples of competitor titles so they can visualise how the book might look on the shelf of a bookshop next to titles in the same genre.

Make Good Trouble had a somewhat challenging brief.

It was the desire of the team that the cover of Make Good Trouble ought to encapsulate that energy of disruption written about in the book. It had to be dynamic, energetic and have a sense of movement to it. Make Good Trouble was not a book written to be pretty but to be powerful. This was taken into consideration.

The theme of  ‘good trouble’ can be conceptualised in many ways. For example, through the imagery of disturbances like cracks, broken screens, mirrors, rubble and fire. These speak to one half of the brief – trouble – but finding imagery to encapsulate positive disruption fit more closely to the contents of the book. Briana was presented with various designs at each stage of the process and talked through their merits with editor Ella Chappell. I asked Briana to speak to her experience of the process, as she was highly involved throughout:

“The creation of a cover design is a process of exploration, tweaking and prototyping. I love collaborating with a designer to help them bring a vision to life. With the cover for MGT, my editor Ella Chappell initially sent me a few options for the cover. We discussed the merits of each of those options. The designer had clearly done a brilliant job of interpreting the idea of disruption in a visual way, from glitches and smoke emerging across the page, to fissures and cracks running through the typography. We discussed the merits of having a darker background versus a lighter one to allow the design effects to pop. Ultimately, I asked Ella what she thought the book’s target audience might respond to. She explained to me that the cover also goes through a development process internally, taking into consideration the feedback from sales, marketing, publicity and rights departments, who are able to share their expertise on the book’s target audience. In the end, the cover that was both mine and Ella’s favourite was also the favourite among the in-house team. We landed on the image of smoke gathering behind the title of the book. The colours are evocative, but soft, mirroring the message of the book – making good trouble.”

After much brainstorming, Karen and the team agreed upon the image of the conflicting clouds of smoke which you see on the cover today. This final version was presented to Briana and Ella for consideration and received author approval. It has movement, energy and a feeling of change – a sense of pushing against the grain without being aggressive or violent. These colourful puffs overwhelm the page without hanging heavy. They imply an immersion into Briana’s world of taking charge and changing for the better. The design is an appeal to action in a transgressive, non-violent yet urgent manner.

The colour scheme was intentionally chosen to reflect a sense of femininity, inspired by Briana’s writing on Goddess Energies. Many books about rebellion and trouble-making have a dark and heavy colour scheme that demands attention from the viewer. However, Briana Pegado’s message is not one of aggression but one of peaceful action and positive change. She connects to her readers on a deeply personal level, appealing to their sense of purpose, values and community.

There was an alternative colour option considered for what would become the final cover, consisting of teal and yellow. The final cover incorporates the Pantone Colour of the Year: Peach Fuzz. The muted pink, peach and blue tones allude to a gentle, uplifting tone whilst still conveying the contrast between pink and blue, representing the activist and the change.

Karen chose a strong, clear, bold typeface for the title MAKE GOOD TROUBLE. It is a darker tone of the pastel green background with transparency allowing the texture of the clouds behind to come through. It is a visual manifestation of how we can view the same world through a different lens, apply new thought to the same problems and create change without destruction. Black is nowhere to be seen on the cover of this inspiring book. There is only optimism and positivity exuding from the cover of Make Good Trouble.

Karen Smith and her designers have done a remarkable job of encapsulating the feeling of Briana Pegado’s text: embracing the energies of disruption in order to make good trouble.

The book Make Good Trouble by Briana Pegado is available to pre-order now. It publishes April 9th 2024.


International Women’s Day Author Spotlight Q&A

In celebration of International Women’s Day and the important work that organisations like the UN are doing to level the playing field between genders, we asked six female authors a few questions. Promoting the voices of women, inspiring empowerment and taking an active stance in gender equality are values Watkins stands by.


Who are the women who have inspired you in your work and in your personal journey?


Jackie Lynch, author of The Happy Menopause:

So many women – my Mum was my first female role model as a little girl. She was the Senior Sister in charge of the isolation ward at the local hospital. She inspired the respect of the doctors and the devotion of her nursing team. Seeing her in this very important role, at a time when many women either didn’t work or had small part-time jobs, I never doubted as I was growing up, that women are capable of great things. and could lead and inspire.

As an adult, I find so many women inspiring, there are almost too many to name. From dedicated investigative journalists, such as Carole Cadwalldr, who dares to speak up when so many don’t, to champions of ageing, such as Joan Bakewell; there are a lot of women out there who are doing great work. In the menopause arena, which is my own area of expertise, I value the work of Professor Anne McGregor on hormonal headaches; Kathy Abernethy, menopause specialist nurse; and Dr Jen Gunter, who speaks out fearlessly against the rising of tide of untrained influencers involving themselves in health matters.

Clio Wood, author of Get Your Mojo Back:

Laura Bates and Caroline Criado Perez for (separately) their amazing work bringing to light the sadly very common discrepancies that women face in all walks of life.

Kim Vopni, author of Your Pelvic Floor:

Katy Bowman, Dr Sara Gottfried, Sherrie Palm, Jill Miller, Julie Wiebe, Kaisa Tuominen, Dr Tamara Rial, Dr Kelly Casperson, Dr Stacy Sims, Shirley Weir!

Ellie Austin-Williams, author of Money Talks:

My mum has always had a strong work ethic and worked tirelessly to provide for me which has inspired me to work hard in whatever I do. I’m also inspired by stories of women who go against the grain and carve out a life that works for them – whether that means a traditional career path, being a stay-at-home parent or something totally different.

Almudena Rocca, author of The Intuitive Drawing Journal:

My mum has probably been my biggest inspiration and influence throughout my work and personal life. I’m very fortunate to have a beautiful relationship with my mum and she has been my biggest supporter as well as someone I go to for advice, guidance and feedback. She has taken many steps and hardships to get to where she is today and in doing this has made the path of being an artist a little easier for me. I’m very grateful for her.

Le’Nise Brothers, author of You Can Have a Better Period:

My mother and all the women who’ve spent years being told that painful and heavy periods are normal and who’ve tirelessly tried to find answers on their own.


What advice would you like to share with your female readers?


Jackie Lynch:

Be kind to yourself. The menopause can be a difficult time, so a little self-care goes a long way. Simple changes to your diet and lifestyle can make a world of difference to the way that you experience this tricky phase of life. Reach out for help and support from health professionals and your loved ones. If they don’t know that you’re struggling, how can they help?

Clio Wood:

So many societal stereotypes are based on the male gaze and patriarchal norms. If you don’t conform, there’s nothing wrong with you; there’s something wrong with society. Also, it can take years to find the confidence to express and live that. I’m still working on it.

Kim Vopni:

Don’t accept suffering, for any reason. Be curious. Seek multiple opinions for care/treatment. Believe in your body’s ability to adapt. Get informed and make the decision that is best for YOU.

Ellie Austin-Williams:

Financial literacy is one key way we can work towards a more inclusive society for women, so invest in your financial education and you’ll reap the rewards.

Almudena Rocca:

I don’t know if this is advice but, I say: “we are all on our on paths – some may be very different from others but you are doing your best and that’s more than enough!”

Le’Nise Brothers:

Painful and heavy periods aren’t normal and aren’t something you should just accept and live with. If you’re not getting the answers you deserve, get a second, third or fourth opinion until you get the support you need.


Thank you to these inspiring women for participating in this Q&A! You can find their incredible books on our website. Browse the Blogs section for more Author Q&A sessions.


Q&A With Briana Pegado: Author of Make Good Trouble


We sat down in candid conversation with Briana Pegado, author of Make Good Trouble to find out her inspirations and top tips for trouble-makers. The book is being released April 9th 2024 and is available for pre-order now.


What do you hope readers will take away from Make Good Trouble? 

I hope readers will take away the courage and confidence to step into their own energy and to better understand it. This book has been written to help people make connections, learn from my experiences, and hopefully have a deeper understand of how beneficial disruption can be. For the people out there who feel that disruption is constantly in their wake, may they feel reassured that this is not a mistake or a fluke, but incredibly intentional — it is part of the fabric of why they are here on this earth. Ultimately, this book is a framework for all of us to live in a more peaceful world, filled with authenticity, if we are all brave enough and courageous enough to shake things up. 


Give us one tip for taking care of your own energy. 

A big part of taking care of our own energy, is the capacity to recognise what is our energy and what is someone else’s energy. Protective tools are a good way to practice this discernment. Whether that’s crystals that we carry with us, or taking a moment to cleanse ourselves of lingering energy in the shower, there are many ways we can protect our energy. 

One of my favourite tools is imagining a warm white light all over my body that acts as protective shield. I visualise this before leaving the house. Another simple way I protect my energy is through using an essential oil blend every morning. I take a moment to breathe in the smell and apply it to my pressure points. It is a little ritual that grounds me, and something that can be returned to throughout the day. I use ritual oil blends from my friend Brooke at Black Moon Botanica in Edinburgh, but you can use any blend that appeals to you, or even one you’ve made yourself. 


What does goddess energy mean to you?

Goddess energy means channelling the energy of the goddesses, who are incredibly powerful beings. Through their power, they enable us to remember our own power. Studying them, performing rituals in their name, and asking them for support, opens their energy to all of us. By focusing on a certain goddess through meditation and asking them questions; or wearing colours, objects, and talismans that represent them, they can guide us and protect us on our journeys. Some goddesses find us at pivotal points in our lives, so it is important for us to incorporate them into daily rituals and begin to build that relationship. 

To me, goddess energy means power, but power that enables us to better understand ourselves and our role in the world. They can remind us of different aspects of ourselves and of the world around us. If we trust them, they can show us the entire nature of the universe. 


How can energy catalyse change in society?

Change in society only happens by catalysing change, in other words, organising and bringing people together under a clear set of values. It is through movement, supporting one another, and daring to question the world around us, that we can cause a flow of energy and bring about change. However, changing society requires us to start with ourselves. It is only by daring to look inwards, at ourselves, our families, our communities, that change can begin. By making positive choices at an individual level we can change our inner world, which reverberates through wider society. 


Who do you see as the ideal reader of Make Good Trouble?

The ideal reader for Make Good Trouble is anyone curious about making good trouble. For readers who often feel out of place in their families, workplaces, and friend groups. For those led by their principles and values, or anyone looking to live in closer alignment with these values. For anyone who has been part of movements for change, or leaders in movements for change. This book is also for the curious reader and those led by their intuition. This book is for the bold; the certain and the uncertain; for the seeker with a long relationship to energy, and the seeker at the start of their journey. This book is for anyone interested in changing their life gently and incrementally. This book is for everyone. 

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