‘We are all in this together’

With students back, Gender Sexuality Alliance at Watertown High School ready to pick up the conversation


Raider Times photo / Courtesy Sean Morris

Watertown’s GSA at 2019 Pride.

Adelle Sheynkman, Raider Times staff

Though never truly gone, participation in the Gender Sexuality Alliance at Watertown High School drastically declined during online learning, and as a result, so did local activism concerning queer issues. But with school back in person, the GSA can go back into full swing.

“Last year the most we ever got was two students,” Sean Morris, the teacher in charge of the GSA, said in an interview with the Raider Times. “It’s been great having my room filled up again.” 

And filled up it has been. Meeting every Tuesday at 7:50 a.m., the GSA now has 10-15 students each week, according to Morris, relaxing and talking about their plans.

“It’s a group that I can be fully vulnerable with,” says Shannon Thapalia, an 11th-grader. “I can just be myself.” 

Yet even though the school year is still relatively new, the club has already done a lot of work. This is a real achievement and is accomplished partly through the atmosphere. Students wander into Room 317 in the early morning, chatting in loose groups, waiting for everyone to arrive. The seating arrangement is unsettled, with students moving chairs and desks, sitting on the counters. It feels relaxed and open, and this feeling carries into the conversations. 

Watertown’s GSA at 2019 Pride in Boston. (Raider Times photo / Courtesy Sean Morris)

For one, half of the conversations aren’t about LGBTQ+ issues. They’re about movies and music. When the club does talk about activism, the tone shifts slightly into seriousness, but that same mood remains.

“I really enjoy how laid back it is. I don’t have to put much effort into it,” says Shannon.

But for those who are passionate about activism and queer issues, the club has this as well. 

“Since they were remote, the club didn’t really have any outline or creative director, so when I joined this year I knew I wanted to create an organized environment,” says newly elected club president Landon Murphy. 

And with a new president comes a new direction.

“My goal for GSA [this year] is to create a safe environment where everyone feels welcomed,” Landon says. “I want to not only have this club be fun but also be a club where we can host events and activities for important LGBTQ+ events on the calendar. 

“I want everyone to have a voice. Although I will be organizing the ideas, I want everyone to have a say in what we do because we are all in this together.” 

When asked about his opinions on the self-directedness of the GSA, Morris had this to say:

“I’m a permanent resident here, but students are only here for four years, and I want to make sure that their experience gives them what they need and what they want,” Morris says.

“I’m most looking forward to helping build a more inclusive and welcoming atmosphere within the WHS community and educating all students about LGBTQ history and topics.” 

–Nov. 22, 2021–