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The yearly event is intended to raise awareness of and show support for gays and lesbians on campus. Gay and lesbian groups across the country are trying to get across the message this week that it's OK to be gay. At Penn, the Lesbian Gay Bisexual Alliance is celebrating the 11th annual "National Coming Out Days." The celebration is intended to raise awareness about gays and lesbians on campus and to show support for people who are coming "out of the closet." Events scheduled include a candlelight vigil, a movie screening and a session where students and others may share their "coming out" stories. "Gay people are somewhat of a hidden minority," said second-year Wharton MBA student Mark Kehoe, a member of the group Wharton Out for Business. "That makes our situation different than other minority groups. People don't know who we are until we come out, and that is the purpose of coming out days." The celebration is also intended to lend support to fellow gays and lesbians who haven't revealed their true sexual orientation, according to LGBA member Andrew Byala, a College junior. "This is an opportunity for people who are in the closet, that whatever stage they're in coming out, to see that we're here to support them," Byala said. As part of the celebration, Wharton Out for Business, the gay, lesbian and bisexual association for Wharton School students, placed "National Coming Out Day" stickers in Wharton student mail folders on Sunday. All faculty and students at Wharton received a flier describing the history of the event and the importance of supporting gay or lesbian colleagues. According to second-year Wharton MBA student and Wharton Out for Business director Troy Senter, awareness of gays and lesbians in the workplace is very important. "Gay and lesbian employees that perceive an unfriendly environment at a company aren't going to be happy and they're going to leave, and that affects the bottom line," he explained. He added that although there is some intolerance in the workplace, the situation is getting better. "When I talk to gay and lesbian alumni from a few years ago, I get the impression that it's become more accepting than it was," he said. In addition, a candlelight vigil will be held tomorrow at 9 p.m. on College Green in memory of Matthew Shepard, the gay University of Wyoming student who died yesterday from injuries sustained in a beating last week. Some students emphasized that this should not cast a shadow over the week. "I think it's not something to brush aside," Byala said. "But we have much to be thankful for, and that's what the point of coming out week is." In addition to the candlelight vigil, a screening of the film Out of the Past will be shown tomorrow, along with a talk from Kevin Jennings, executive director of the Gay Straight Education Network. On Thursday at 7:30 p.m., students are invited to share their coming out stories at the LGBA office in the Rotunda at 4012 Walnut Street.

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