When Jackson Myars' lover died and he learned of his own HIV positive status, Myars spun out of control. He lost his job, developed psychological problems and turned to IV drug use. In the lexicon of recovery, the head-turning hunk puts its simply: "I hit bottom."
Today the six-foot-two, ruggedly handsome Texan is back on top in more ways than one: Choir director of Positive Voices, the choral group of Dallas' Cathedral of Hope, and a board member of the Dallas chapter of the National Leather Association. Myars, a former Mr. Texas Leather Pride, has turned a group of 25 HIV positive singers into recording stars with their 1995 debut CD, Windows of Hope.
The wild thing about Maestro Myars is not his penchant for leather but his admitted lack of formal musical training. "I'm probably more surprised [by it] than anybody," Myars says. "I consider the choir to be a spiritual gift."
Myars credits the Cathedral of Hope, the world's largest gay congregation, for focusing his life and his musical talent: "Friends have left. Lovers have left. Family hasn't always been where I needed them. Health care professionals and society at large have all failed me in one way or another. But my religion has always been there to sustain me."
Myars says Positive Voices wants to present people who are living positively with HIV. "All the music we do is centered around the themes of hope, strength, courage and faith. We want people to see us and hear our music and hopefully get the message that they don't have to live with the despair that HIV can bring."
In good health with 51 T-cells, Myars doesn't worry about the little things, such as the few church members who've raised an eyebrow or two at the leather fetish he's had since the age of 16. "In most cases, people come to know me and my music before they become aware of my leather interest," Myars says. "They eventually come to accept and respect me for all that I am, even if they don't quite understand it." Myars flashes a Marlboro Man grin. "It's not like I come to rehearsal in my boots and chaps and stuff -- although there have been times when I've been tempted to bring a whip."