Izzy Mora was raised in the semi-rural and partially sub-urban area of El Paso’s Lower Valley. There he found himself coping with the communal familiarities and disparities of a close-knit community that was wracked with a mix of poverty and on-the-cusps strivings towards the middle class. There were hard-working families in small homes with sprawling yards, some farm animals, and the contrast of government housing and Catholicism as its dutiful and castigating element. Amidst this backdrop, he found himself to be a confused gay boy in the midst of a morass of societal and religious expectations that brought him great internal strife about his sexuality. It was because of this upbringing that his rebellion and subsequent self-acceptance catapulted him to become a community organizer.
He maintained a two-and-a-half-year relationship with a 21-year-old male at the age of sixteen through seventeen. He entered into an organized “Style Club” and got his first taste of community planning and coordination. At the age of nineteen, he landed his first work in community care through work at a center for abused children. His introduction to the concept of self-help came through this work and a branch of that center that helped families affected and shattered by multiple generations of child abuse and all of its dire ramifications for survivors.
His best friend from childhood, who was also gay and the touchstone that was needed to combat the contrast between him and the heterogeneous society that kept its elbow on his collarbone, revealed to him that he contracted HIV the virus that causes AIDS. Izzy took his sensibilities and experience to work for El Paso’s Southwest AIDS Committee (SWAC). It was the desperation of wanting to understand and save his best friend from this disease that launched a shift against his internalized homophobia. While there, he was first the Director of Volunteers and Advocacy for a year before becoming the Director of HIV Testing and Counseling spanning four more years.
It was at SWAC that Izzy’s outreach efforts took him to operate testing and counseling at El Paso’s gay nightclubs and gave him a literary and publishing voice to reach people in high-risk populations. It was through the production of three LGBTQ-centered publications that he was able to publish articles and write fiction that spoke of coming out, being gay, coping with a global pandemic that was afflicting and killing his friends and lovers, as well as solidifying his sense of purpose. That purpose was to help those in crisis and those struggling to help themselves become themselves. It was a revelation that taught him to blend strife with hope. He learned that it meant sticking his neck out where others might not do the same and very often, hid from society.
After the dissolution of the Southwest AIDS Committee, Izzy continued his community work in the area of cancer services through fundraising for the American Cancer Society and Education, Marketing, and Communications for the Rio Grande Cancer Foundation. Throughout these years employed in Cancer Services, he remained a community volunteer in HIV and AIDS Services, committing his volunteer work on the Board of Directors for, AIDS Project El Paso (APEP), the Border AIDS Partnership (BAP), and the Rio Grande AIDS Project (RGAP) fundraising and providing grant monies to not-for-profits that served the communities of El Paso, Juarez, Mexico, and Las Cruces, New Mexico in their missions to assist those affected and infected by HIV. During the late ’90s, he helped to organize one of the first outdoor PRIDE events in El Paso. It took place in the parking lot of the “Allright Parking” business stationed behind the San Antonio Mining Company.
In 2009, he very proudly served on the planning committee of a local LGBTQ+ Film Festival titled, “The Frontera PRIDE Film Festival”. Throughout this work in helping others, Izzy was able to help himself grapple with embracing his homosexuality against the constructs of a hetero-normative society. The inclination to step in and take action on behalf of those in need has driven his life’s meaning. It is a time-honored cliché that by helping others, one invariably helps themselves. Izzy has found meaning and purpose in his LGBTQ Community and has dedicated his time towards acceptance, inclusion, and even the honor of those who are LGBTQ.
“You Get What You Give”.
Izzy is retired and volunteering for the “Borderland Heroes Project” at the Borderland Rainbow Center.