Elana Dykewomon was born on October 11, 1949 in New York. She grew up in a Jewish American household, with a father who fought in the Israeli army and a mother who was a researcher for Time Life and secretary of a smuggling ring to Israel. Elana fell in love with her nursery school bus driver and knew that she liked women at a young age.
When she was 8, her family moved from Long Island to Puerto Rico. There, she developed an idea in her head that lesbians were consigned to a terrible life. On top of that, Elana was being molested by a man who worked at a local hotel, and she had a fraught relationship with her parents. Around age 12, she tried to take an overdose to kill herself. She was sent to a residential center in New York, and when she got out she took a second overdose. She then spent a year at the Johns Hopkins mental hospital.
After Elana transitioned to a halfway house and then lived with some cousins, she started going to different boarding schools. At Windsor Mountain School, she met her first lover, with whom she went on to attend Reed College. After a year at Reed, Elana went to Chicago and met a lesbian who connected Elana with a larger lesbian community for the first time. Elana then finished school at the California Institute of Art.
Upon graduation, Elana started a gay liberation organization with a gay friend from Reed. When she found that primarily gay men attended that organization, she became involved with the Valley Women’s Center in Northampton, Massachusetts, where she focused on publishing women’s writing and women’s film. She helped push for a lesbian bookstore, lesbian garden section, and a mural on the second floor of the women’s center, and ultimately came to identify as a lesbian separatist. She also participated in socialist, anti-war, and welfare activism, which she engaged with through demonstrations, theater, and poetry.
Fleeing a toxic relationship, Elana moved from the Northeast down to Florida, then to the Oregon coast, and finally to the Bay Area, where she stayed the rest of her life. In San Francisco, Elana was involved with organizing the Dyke March for 8 years. She was determined to increase the march’s disability access, spearheading efforts to add a shuttle, reserve a seating area on the lawn, and provide refreshments. Elana’s disability activism included pushing for more accessible homes and construction, as well as editing an issue of Sinister Wisdom on disability rights. Elana also became involved with fat activism, participating in demonstrations and writing essays for fat studies journals, including one piece called “Traveling Fat.”
Elana’s other writings include the books Beyond the Pale, Risk, and Riverfinger Woman. She also wrote several poetry books, exploring political and spiritual themes. Elana maintained that her greatest gift in life was the lesbian writer community. Through that network, she felt tremendous love, support, and security, as they uplifted one another by reading each other’s work and comforted one another through being present for each chapter in each other’s lives. Elana passed away in August 2022, but her presence lives on through her far-reaching writing and activism.