Dastan Kasmamytov usually goes by the name of Danik and currently works as project manager with Unicorns In Technology (UNIT), while doing his Master Degree in Software Engineering in Oslo, Norway. Before joining the unicorns he already was a LGBTQI* activist in his native Kyrgyzstan, being one of the first men to come out as gay in public.
Why did you join UNIT and what is it all about? I met Stuart Cameron and he asked me to join the network. The Get-Together events hosted by UNIT inspired me – I’ve never seen so many queer geeks in one place before.
What are those networking events about?
Each event is very unique and features different speakers, which I always find very special and also very social.
“I believe that in the tech and science world there is a lot to be done in terms of visibility for LGBTQI* people.”
How did you get to live in Europe? I was the first Kyrgyz person to come out publicly which created quite a debate. My parents as well as fellow activists suggested I move to a safer place, so I went to Oslo to study.
Were your parents supportive? They were, but still it wasn’t easy. As a post soviet country, Kyrgyzstan has also a very homophobic mentality. A lot of people are not educated about LGBTQI* issues or even aware of what gay people are. I remember how my mum was watching TV and laughing at a gay singer she saw, not realising her own son sitting next to her was also gay.
It must have taken a lot of courage for you to come out then. It took time, especially for myself. At the beginning I was afraid of the word gay, so I used to tell people I was bisexual. After I spent some time in the US, I finally accepted myself. When I got back to Kyrgyzstan the first I did was to come out to my parents. Their reaction was that the evil western society had changed and made me gay. This is an image of course portrayed by the local media. They tend to picture the west as morally degraded, so I could understand why my parents would act like this. It took time for them to more or less understand that I’m just gay.
When was it that you realised you were gay? My teenage years were challenging, I was questioning my identity, my desires and who I am. But at some point when I was about eighteen I accepted myself as being gay, but it was a hard time.
Would you think the work of UNIT makes it easier for you or others like you to achieve more visibility and have better opportunities in life? I believe that unfortunately in the tech and science world there is a lot to be done in terms of visibility for LGBTQI* people. While our societies and environments are becoming more accepting, even in Kyrgyzstan, visibility is so important. When you’re out you begin to change the minds of people. In my case, coming out to my parents or sister changed the way they think about gay men. Of course they love me as a son and believe that I’m a good person. Visibility and openness are important and UNIT does that in the tech and science community.
Interview: Torsten Schwick
UNICORNS IN TECH (UNIT) is an international tech community for LGBTQI* and straight allies and a place for anyone who is interested in technologies and tech science, whether a professional or casual enthusiast. With over 1600 members in Germany and beyond and UNIT are growing rapidly. Among us there are computer scientists, software engineers, data analysts, graphic designers, digital artists, gamers, chemists, physicists, hackers, hardware specialists, engineers, social media specialists, bloggers, journalists, innovators, students, startupers, entrepreneurs, CEOs, investors, the creative types, the nerdy types, everyone with technology and science related interests.
Except for #UNIT the UNICORNS IN TECH team leads monthly Get-Togethers hosted by various companies, like Google, Microsoft, SoundCloud, SAP, Axel Springer, Zalando, Wooga and others. Check out the speakers, program and tickets on