I'm Not Alone Finding release and connection through Odyssey S

This month, Living Positive Victoria is focusing on the diversity of women's voices in our positive community.

To celebrate the International Transgender Day of Visibility, we talked with one of our members, Jessie Shore, also known as Odyssey S, about what it’s like for her as a trans-woman to live with HIV and why she wants to create a song that challenges HIV stigma.

by Emil Cañita (he/she/they)

I'm not alone.

Odyssey S is known for her electro-pop music.

Coming out of Melbourne’s diverse electric music scene, HappyTV describes Jessie’s talent in a way that allows her broad range of influences and eclectic personal taste to deliver a sound “that not only just stands out, but demands to be heard.”

When we asked her what inspired her to want to write a song that spoke about her lived-experience, she said, “As a HIV-positive trans-woman, I found dating straight men especially hard because of my status. I feel like there’s nowhere near enough awareness out there for the rest of the community.”

“I still find that straight men & women are generally unaware about HIV. I feel like HIV is still largely seen as taboo, and it’s made connecting with new people very difficult for me.”

“People don’t understand what undetectable means for example, people still assume that you’re sick and you’re going to infect them. I feel like there’s so much work that needs to be done for people all over to learn about HIV and how it works — and I thought — what a better way than a song to try and get this message across.”

Reasons why this may be the case can be traced back to our current National HIV Strategy, which still doesn’t recognise women as a ‘priority population.’

According to Kirsty Machon, CEO of Positive Women Victoria, “it is estimated that there are currently 3,000 women living with HIV in Australia, with an estimate of 400-500 women potentially undiagnosed.”

Examples of health inequities such as a lack of access to testing, a recognition of the unique impacts of HIV stigma towards women, timely access to care, and having no Medicare are just some of many the reasons why positive women do not experience the same quality of life compared with HIV-positive men who have sex with men (MSM) in Australia.

Jessie adds, “I want to try and change this issue in some way for my community.”

Having grown up with music in her veins and having previously trained as a professional ballet dancer, Jessie relates to music as a way for her to release and connect.

Listen to 'Summer Time' by Vynes & Odyssey S, 2020.

“When I was writing ‘Summer Time’, it gave me a way to write about this abusive relationship that I was in, talk about my mental health and some of the physical health issues that I was going through.”

“I also love finding music that you can feel this intense sense of relation to. It’s what I love most about music. Through it, I feel like I’m not alone.”

When we asked her what her HIV diagnosis meant for her as an artist, she said with a mixture of shock and relief in her voice, “It really opened up a world of writing for me.”

“Something clicked in my diagnosis through my writing. When I was first starting out, I was more experimental. After my diagnosis, I started to create music that I had this intense emotional connection with. Through it, I found it easier to release myself.”

“A lot of things have changed for me positively since my diagnosis,” she adds.

“During COVID, I was also able to finally have the courage to come out as trans. HIV has taught me a lot about being completely unapologetically myself. This whole experience has taught me that the more vocal you are about your story, the more informed people are, and the better our lives will become as positive people. This is why I want to write a song with our community.”

ODYSSEY S (she/her) is a young, trans-woman from Melbourne, Australia. After training pre-professional ballet for 4 years in high school at Melbourne's 'Victorian College of the Arts Secondary School', ODYSSEY S made the switch to performing, songwriting and production. Since, ODYSSEY S has co-written with other emerging artists, honed in her craft, and has debuted her own brand of music. Her latest collaborative single, Summer Time, is a synthy, hard bass wonderland about mental illness and falling out of love, and showcases just how openly and even bluntly ODYSSEY shares her stories.

Want to make music with Odyssey S?

Want to change the way our wider community think about HIV? Would you like to learn how to write a song? Odyssey S would like to invite both people living with HIV and their loved ones to come together and create a song that will change the face of HIV stigma. If you want to be a part of this group or know anyone who would, please get in touch with Jessie today at Odyssey.s@hotmail.com

Each year, on March 9, Living Positive Victoria joins the National Network of Women Living with HIV (Femfatales) celebrate the lives of women with HIV in Australia. This year, we focused on the diversity of women's voices in our community.

Read our 'National Day of Women Living with HIV' article today.

Feeling lonely?

Living Positive Victoria offers free peer support to anyone living with HIV in Victoria. Not only can our Peer Navigation Program connect you with another person living with HIV, but we can also refer you to different programs and services across the state for any additional support. Community events are also held each month to connect you to your Positive Community. Connect with us today!