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Dipping in the Water an essay by Matthew Lax Los Angeles, CA June 2019

It’s funny because there we were on the cusp of probably the biggest breakthrough in HIV health and science since the cocktail, and I was on the other side of it, somewhat displaced generationally. Even my first foray into HIV meds were a little behind-the-times. I received the trail end of a medication called Atripla that gave people intense dreams and psychotic episodes. I have the sense now (having transitioned into our current regimen of extremely sophisticated drugs) that my seroconversion happened at another major transitional point in the timeline of HIV care, maintenance, and its public/social life.... In the New Testament, Jesus Christ helps a paralyzed man bathe, thereby curing him. Only archaeological speculation and the gospel confirm the exact whereabouts of this Pool of Bethesda, marked by its proximity to Sheep Gate in the Muslim quarter of Jerusalem, an already contested site unto itself. The interchangeable Hebrew and Aramaic translations of Bethesda simultaneously offer two judgements: one of sanctification or grace, for its transcendent power; the other of defilement or shame, because of the infirmed who regularly gathered there. Bethesda recalls that other elusive and arguably queer body of water, the Fountain of Youth. St. Augustine, the Isle of Bimi, these are just geographical approximations for something of a cross-cultural obsession, the desire to transcend the normative soma. The colloqialism, “there are dog years, there are straight years, and then there are gay years, which could really go either way,” only hints at a consuming, erotic and painful love of youth. Yet, even with scientific advancements in gender hormones or HIV treatments, it has become increasingly hard to generalize how these bodies look, or how these bodies age. From colonizer to ailing pilgrim, the mystical well evades capture, and only the craving for immortality, for preservation, remains. Perhaps its cursed suitors are quenched neither by Bethesda’s physical matter nor the promise of a cure itself, but by the antidote of time regained, the value of myth. Like Bethesda, the codification of “status” has a double-meaning, as Jonathan MolinaGarcia’s own hyphenated identity links him to both the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services agency, as well as the Health Department. This body is regulated by the State, whether by force or treatment, “papers” or prescription. It could be said that the chosen family is born of rejection. Rejected first by family, for coming out. Rejected second by community for essentially coming out again, the cruel irony of revealing one’s status. The chosen family has nothing to do with blood or even geographic location, it is almost formed out from prior experiences and other relationships, an innate understanding of one another, sometimes fueled by a more obvious need or absence elsewhere.

Profile for Lawndale

Jonathan Molina-Garcia: The Bethesda Brotherhood  

The project shadows self-identified, HIV-positive men over 50 years of age, whom the artist met on a gay cruising website. Taking their shar...

Jonathan Molina-Garcia: The Bethesda Brotherhood  

The project shadows self-identified, HIV-positive men over 50 years of age, whom the artist met on a gay cruising website. Taking their shar...

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