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Penn's National Coming Out Day events included a campus rally and a vigil. Proud members of the gay community popped out of the Button yesterday afternoon to celebrate sexual diversity on campus as part of National Coming Out Day, but the lighthearted tone turned somber as members of the University community came together for a vigil on College Green to remember victims of hate crimes. During the noon rush on Locust Walk, about 10 students and staff gathered at the Button and passed out stickers to demonstrate their pride in their sexual identity. Many of them crawled through the holes in the Button as a coming out gesture, which was appropriately accompanied by the song, "I'm Coming Out" by Diana Ross. The group received mixed reactions from passersby. Although they felt they were generally well received, not everyone embraced the event and its message. "Many people thought, 'Oh my God, a gay thing, run away.' That saddened me," College freshman Karim Javeri said. "It's something they don't want anything to do with." Other participants agreed that the crowd sentiment was not all positive. While passing out stickers, "I got to one girl who said, 'Actually, I don't support it,'" College sophomore Rudy Ramirez said. "That was like a piece of ice right through me? because it was truly the first time I encountered somebody who did not support me." He added that he felt generally fortunate to be surrounded by friends and others who support him. Despite a few unpleasant moments, the event's organizers said it was overall a creative way to commemorate National Coming Out Day. "This is a little bit of a contrast [to the other events] because they can be emotional, and this is just to have fun and celebrate? and to be seen and see what National Coming Out Day is all about," said College senior Kurt Klinger, chairperson of the Lesbian Gay Bisexual Alliance. And College junior Mike Hartwyk, a member of the LGBA executive board, added, "It's important for us to reflect back on the time when we were not out and to remember what it was like and to help people.? We have to make ourselves present so that people know they are not the only ones." The event sought both to symbolize the participants' coming out and to show support to those who might be struggling with their own sexuality. "It's symbolic that lesbian, gay [and] transgender people have to come out every day of their lives and that it takes a tremendous amount of courage for them to do that," said Bob Schoenberg, director of the Lesbian Gay Bisexual Center. The day quickly lost its largely cheerful nature as last night's vigil touched on the difficulty of being a sexual minority. Around 10 people, both gay and straight, addressed a crowd of about 50 attendees on their feelings about hate crimes. The event was intended primarily to commemorate the death of Matthew Shepard, the gay Wyoming college student who was killed almost exactly one year ago, but was used as an instrument to discuss hate crimes of all sorts. Kurt Conklin, the advisor to Students Together Against Acquaintance Rape and Facilitating Learning About Sexual Health, related a story that detailed his own experiences as a victim of a gay hate crime, in which perpetrators repeatedly ripped down a rainbow flag in front of Conklin's home and urinated on his house. "Bad things are happening right in your own neighborhood," Conklin said. Many of the speakers emphasized the importance of reflection and introspection as a catalyst for change. "Take a look inside yourself. Confront your own prejudices, your own fears," said Undergraduate Assembly Chairperson Michael Silver, a College senior. "We all have them, I have them. Nobody's perfect." The attendees generally felt a sense of duty and moral responsibility to attend the vigil and show support for minorities who are the victims of hate crimes. "I feel it's important to show there is a strong support network for all people at the University and this is a good way to show that," College sophomore Karly Grossman said. "I hope it serves as an inspiration for people to remember to appreciate themselves and look out for each other."

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