With an unforgettable name and vital goals, OCTOPUS, LLC (Organizing Communities Transgender Outreach Promoting United Support) was established on April 18th, 2017 by Kimberly Sue Griffiths.
After fully transitioning in 2015 and playing an active role in organizations including TransOhio and Equitas Health, Griffiths saw gaps in the support and resources available within Ohio’s transgender community. These missing pieces now act as the driving force behind her newfound organization.
OCTOPUS aims to improve the lives of those who identify as transgender or gender non-conforming through networking, peer support, promoting services, community-wide education, and by boosting outreach to underserved rural and urban areas. Griffiths leads the march with powerful plans for the future, including collaborating with groups all across Ohio, creating events recognizing trans and non-binary people with disabilities, and continued work within the state’s prisons to provide resources and support to transgender inmates.
The Buckeye Flame spoke with Griffiths about the organization’s goals, progress thus far, and importance of these efforts within the transgender community.
What are the goals of OCTOPUS, LLC?
The purpose of OCTOPUS is designed to both unite existing communities and to reach out to rural communities where services are completely or largely unavailable. It’s basically a transgender community support organization to improve the lives and welfare for people who identify as trans and gender non-conforming. We also try to do networking, improve resource accessibility, provide outreach to underserved communities, and promote applicable services to support groups’ education and activities perceived as appropriate.
How do you hope the organization will influence Ohio communities?
Cohesion and resource access. I think there are so many people living in areas with almost zero support, especially smaller, more conservative areas. Some of them are young folks whose parents aren’t supporting them, some of them are folks who have no means of transportation to access support – a lot of communities have no therapists who are trans-knowledgeable, or even healthcare folks who are knowledgeable. Equitas [Health] has been spreading out around the state and filling gaps here and there, but there are still a lot of smaller urban areas, where you would have to drive quite a ways.
What has OCTOPUS already been able to accomplish in the past 3 years?
OCTOPUS has been able to provide resource connections, whether it’s with an attorney, Equality Ohio legal clinics, or things like that. Also, on the individual level we have been able to provide personal support. I think I’ve made some inroads with folks just helping them to be more comfortable with who they are.
I think organizing recognition nights, volunteering with BQIC for community pride, and activities like that have also been helpful. Hopefully some of my presentations and talks have inspired people to find out more about certain topics and areas. I do quite a bit of talking on the name-change process, the Prison Rape Elimination Act and the rules on how that applies to trans folks, on OCTOPUS, and on community advocacy and how to analyze your own interests to become more involved as a community advocate. I am in love with the trans community and want to do whatever I can to help.
We are not a 501(c)(3) at this point, so any contribution that’s given to me goes back out to others – someone who doesn’t have access to a phone anywhere so they need a phone for a month or someone who hasn’t been able to pay a bill or needs a meal. We’re also connecting people in homeless situations. Wherever I see things that need to be addressed or need to be done, I try to connect someone with resources who can help or I get involved.
Why is this work within the transgender community so vital?
Because, people are not getting recognized. People do not have a connection with resources. People are not supported sufficiently. Because black lives matter – trans lives matter. Greater society needs to recognize that trans people are important, LGBTQ people are important, black people are important. The discrimination that takes place needs to be addressed.
- OCTOPUS coordinates a Transgender Peer Support Group Meeting on Mondays. E-mail Kimberly at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.