Published: April 14, 2013
Rejected by his Pentecostal church for his sexuality, he underwent gay ''conversion'' therapy at a Christian ministry in Melbourne. If the program's aim was to ''pray away the gay'', it failed. He remained a homosexual man with a strong faith, and found a new church that embraced him.
Yet the turmoil of trying to reconcile the warring parts of his identity left an indelible mark.
On March 27, Damien took his own life. Nobody can know with certainty what triggered the decision, but those close to the 43-year-old personal carer believe ''reparative'' therapy at Mosaic Ministries in Melbourne's south-east scarred him deeply.
''It troubled him right to the end,'' said friend and counsellor Matt Glover, a former Baptist pastor sacked from his Lilydale church in 2011 for publicly supporting same-sex marriage.
''I saw him every two weeks for counselling and he would often ask the question, 'Does God still love me, Matt?' Despite me reassuring him every time, it just couldn't stick. He was a very sensitive, kind, compassionate man. So many people loved him but life was just too hard. It's tragic.''
Mr Glover, who conducted Damien's funeral last Wednesday, hopes his death will be a wake-up call for church leaders in denial about the damage caused when they reject gay members of their flock.
It's a view backed by other Christian counsellors and health experts, who say the phenomenon of what they call ''gay religious suicide'' is vastly under-reported.
While conversion programs are at the extreme end of the spectrum - and relatively rare, with fewer than 15 believed to be operating in Australia - rejection of gay church members is common as religious leaders from all denominations grapple with homosexuality within their ranks..¨.
Thanks to Ex-Gay, Australia: