Daryk grew up in Utah, in a small suburban neighbourhood that lacked diversity. The state is the home of the Mormons, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and Daryk spent his childhood and adolescence surrounded by that community.
"My hometown is a very Caucasian place really, I would say it is over 90 percent white and over 80 percent of people are practicing Mormons."
The Mormon religion places the traditional family unit, a husband and wife, at the core of their beliefs and practices. Mormon leaders rarely, if ever, speak about anyone that struggles to live up to those expectations.
For Daryk, this was extremely difficult. "I always knew I was gay, ever since I can remember, but it was unquestionable to think about bringing it up with anyone around me. Society, as I knew it, just had no place for anyone like me."
This was reinforced by one close family member who was also gay: his uncle.
"My dad’s brother is gay and while he did tell people, he chose to stay in Utah and stay in the Mormon community. He tried to be active and appease everyone, you know be a good example of being gay. But whatever he did it would never be considered appropriate.
"My mum was one of the people who objected to his lifestyle. She wanted to protect her family, but that affected me. I was absolutely terrified at the idea of telling her about my own sexuality."
Instead of being able to be honest about who he was, Daryk threw himself into extracurricular activities and swam competitively for ten years. He became captain of the swim team – which is where he started to think more and more about other cultures and communities.
"Every summer, American-Japanese people would come to train with us. They showed me something different from what I was experiencing growing up. My curiosity was ignited and I decided to study Japanese at high school. I absolutely loved it and my interest in Japan just grew and grew."
At 18 years old, he had the choice to serve in a Mormon mission, but Daryk had to think about what he had planned for himself.
"I was in my senior year and, while Mormons normally go on missions, it is at 19 usually. At first, I didn’t know if I wanted to go – I was ready to go to college. I knew I was gay and I had been hoping I could get away from [the Morman] way of life for so long and experience a new culture.
"Ultimately, I decided to apply to go on a mission and it was decided for me to go to Japan. I couldn’t believe it when I found out."
The lure of Japan and diversity was so strong that Daryk decided to join the mission – he spent two years as a missionary. "There were lots of voluntary activities, like offering English classes for the community, of course with the main goal being to share our beliefs and get people to join the church.
"We started at 6:30 am every day, working out and studying in the morning then hitting the streets until about 9-9:30 pm. It was a very strict two years, but I was out on the street every day and in Japanese homes, which meant I learned the local customs and the language."
While Daryk is no longer active in the Mormon church, he does say that it taught him a good sense of hard work and allowed him to learn Japanese.
After his mission, Daryk returned to Utah and completed his leadership scholarship at university. He majored in Japanese and Asian studies and did photography to pay for his schooling and rent.
"I learned the entrepreneurial spirit from where I lived, on campus in an entrepreneurial studio, and from taking photos. All of these life experiences helped me realise that there was so much more out there, and I was ready to contribute and experience the world."
Before long, he found a scholarship from the Japanese government for people to come to the country. His flights, classes, and accommodation were all paid for, so Daryk was able to finish his university credits there, and he is still there now.
"I never moved back. I moved to Tokyo, received a higher education degree in tech, and started working. I was afraid of going back and trying to fit in, in Utah, so I didn’t."
Daryk had always wanted to work in the IT sector in Asia and after working at Integral Ad Science is now a Solutions Architect at Criteo. "I love my job so much and I want to continue what I’m doing. That was always the goal. My dad is a product manager for the Mormon church making a lot of their new tech so that always appealed to me."
Living in Japan, Daryk has created his community. He is now the regional leader for APAC Pride at Criteo and is involved in doing what he can for the community. Being thousands of miles away from home also afforded him the space to come out to his family.
"I didn’t want to just go to a corner of the world to hide and be forgotten, I wanted a community and wanted to be who I was."
He first phoned his dad. "My parents [had] suspected I was gay my whole life. My dad was definitely expecting it, his brother was gay, and so his reaction was fine. Then he asked me: 'Do you want me to tell your mum?'"
After years of expectations from his mum, grandma, and siblings, all trying to set him up with girls and asking when he would have children, Daryk was unsure about whether to tell her.
"While my mum was the best mum and my close friend growing up, always there at my swimming events supporting me I knew she was not really supportive of the gay community, and it took me a long time to speak to her."
Daryk asked his dad to tell his mum and, although his relationship with her was not good for some time, things eventually got better.
"She did tell me not to post anything on Facebook when I first came out because of how our community looks down on LGBTQ+ individuals, such as gays being this promiscuous stereotype. Then, this year, I had a long conversation with her, about how being gay is real love too.
"Now I am taking my partner of three years home for Christmas and everyone is being really welcoming. I’m looking forward to going home."
After building a community for himself and being fully involved in the professional LGBTQ+ networks in Asia, Daryk is now looking forward to visiting his friends and family at home and having the two sides of his life meet. He thinks that he and his partner may even live in the US in the future.
"You can’t get married in Japan as a gay couple so we would have to go to the US for that, and we both want that security. It would also be nice for my partner to live there and experience the States. We could go for a few years to see if we like it and grow together over there."
Community is a part of Daryk’s life, whether that be the swim team he built up or the LGBTQ+ communities that he has nurtured living and working in Japan. Daryk thrives in communities.
"I was always so afraid to lose those relationships and companionships in my life by coming out. That’s why I put so much effort in my life here and the LGBTQ+ community here. I feel at home."