Patrick Califia went from a conservative Mormon upbringing to a decades-long career as a controversial pro-pornography and queer rights champion. In 1978, when he still identified as a lesbian, he published a piece in The Advocate defending lesbian S&M, a practice that was at the time considered to be against an influential school of feminist thought that held that women were above violent relationship dynamics. (One of his supporters claims that some of his former critics were won not by digesting his non-fiction philosophy, but by reading his porn and enjoying it.) His first book, published with the collaboration of the lesbian S&M collective he helped found, was subsequently rejected by a number of women’s bookstores, and his more than a dozen later works – taught in some colleges – have continued the polarizing trend, touching on topics such as deliberate exposure to HIV and age of consent laws. He testified in a Canadian censorship case when shipments of his books were seized at the border, leading to a revision of national obscenity laws.
At the age of 45, Califia began identifying as a bisexual trans man, a split on two fronts from his former role as a lesbian sex activist, though the ‘sex’ part hasn’t gone anywhere. He has continued publishing erotica, including several volumes featuring gay men, and speaking on transgender topics.