There’s a scene in movies that I’ve always loved. It’s that iconic moment where the main character, after facing adversity, realizes what they were meant to do all along. They pick themselves up, dust themselves off, and face the world a changed person. A hero.

It’s my favourite thing, or it was, until it happened to me. Then, um, it became scary and hilarious. Scarelarious, if you will. I wasn’t a suddenly empowered Dorothy realizing she was able to get back to Kansas all along. Instead, just at the moment everything in my life was going wrong and I felt completely terrified, I suddenly realized I was a queer lady. (Yes, that Dorothy reference wasn’t for nothing.)

I also realized, that at thirty-four years old I was THE ONLY PERSON WHO DIDN’T KNOW THAT. Between my encyclopedic knowledge of The L-Word episodes, my rabid teenage Tori Amos fandom, and my years at Guelph University (*cough* one of the only regular Canadian stops on Ani Difranco’s tours *cough*), I was a stereotype in the way only an unknowing closet case can be.

Coming out was a very unique experience for me, as I mostly had to inform people that I had been “in” at all. It was mostly friends who had assumed I had been going through some weird stage of dating lunkhead dudes and who were relieved that I had “given up on that nonsense and gone back to dating women.”

It was a very unique experience watching it dawn on people that this was all new to me. It almost universally involved the kind of awkward hip pivot that would make Elaine Benes proud. I had spent years watching all those coming out videos on YouTube and, I repeat, I somehow had NO IDEA I was queer. I also spent a bunch of time sending out late-night Facebook messages to women I hadn’t realized I had gone on dates with over the years.

So, after MANY awkward conversations, I was finally out. Hooray! Now what?

In my experience, suddenly becoming aware of your queerness is a bit like waking up as Spiderman. It’s like I’ve gained a sense I never had. Suddenly everywhere I look there are incredible women and gender-fluid folks being amazing. I had to stop going to bike events so I didn’t blurt out, “You are pretttttty,” and run away (something that has in no way happened…several times).

It’s like being seventeen again. Remember how humiliating it was to be seventeen and trying to navigate the world? Except that back then, everyone else was also seventeen.

So I spent a year awkwardly mumbling, stumbling and sweating through attempts at talking to women. This included me buying a woman a drink at a dance party and watching her moonwalk away with it (awful, but also weirdly impressive); however, much like Dorothy, I know there’s a way to yellow brick road my way to a better life. This nerdy thirty-five-year-old baby queer just has to figure it out!

And then it occurred to me: I developed my in-depth knowledge of the films of Walter Matthau and my ability to quote lines from Star Trek TNG from hours of study (please don’t fall in love with me). Maybe it’s possible to become really great at dating queer folks by practicing!

So, late one Sunday, after I had once again not been able to string together a sentence while trying to talk to a gorgeous and hilarious woman, I posted an earnest, silly offer to take strangers on the Internet out on practice dates. I expected to hear from three people, and maybe go on a date or two and then go back buying drinks for moonwalking strangers; however, much to my surprise, the post got a lot of responses. My inbox was filled with messages of support and women interested in dates.

Which means, to my exhilaration and abject terror, I am spending this summer taking women and gender queer folks on practice dates to learn such important skills as being able to talk to women with actual words instead of the panicked squeak of a mouse confronting its own mortality (it’s a very specific sound).

Follow my journey from a confused babyqueer to Jane Lynch meets Lily Tomlin meets Shane from The L Word. I feel like the Shane part is fakeable. After all, I have memorized hours of her dialogue.

Seriously, how did I have no idea?