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Hochstein helps lead change for LGBTQA+ community

Joel Hochstein paced around his family’s house for most of the day. His mother asked what was wrong. Hochstein responded with a lie, stating that nothing was on his mind, and continued to pace.

“I probably wore a hole into the floor,” Hochstein said. “It wasn’t until later in the night that I told myself that I needed to do it.”

It was December 2009, and Hochstein had decided to return to his home state of Nebraska for winter break. He also decided that he would come out as a queer individual to his mother and three younger sisters upon arrival.

The coming out process can go in many different ways.

“You’ve got people whose families disown them,” Hochstein said. “You’ve got people who lose all sense of support. Those things run through your mind. They ran through my mind. How were my mothers and sisters going to react?”

Today, Hochstein is the hearing officer for the office of student conduct at Iowa State University. He’s also a member of Iowa State's LGBTQA+ Faculty and Staff Association. Hochstein stepped forward in spring 2015 to help organize Iowa State’s Pride Summit, a group composed of Iowa State's LGBTQA+ leaders from campus organizations, faculty, and staff.

“It’s a group for us to come together and advance the community as a whole,” Hochstein said. “It’s basically a work group.”

The Pride Summit meets once every three weeks to discuss current events and issues within the LGBTQA+ community. It’s composed of CVM Spectrum, Delta Lambda Phi Social Fraternity, Gamma Rho Lambda National Sorority, ISU LGBTA Alliance, LGBT Student Services Center, LGBTQA+ Faculty and Staff Association and Queer* Graduate Student Association. 

The group is open to any students who are passionate about LGBTQA+ issues and wish to spark change in the community. Hochstein said the Pride Summit can be whatever it needs to be at the time. If there is a big issue on campus, Pride Summit can come together and talk about a response.

“This year, we really want to focus on getting students connected to leadership opportunities on campus,” Hochstein said. “If we can help students develop those leadership skills, they can take an active role in change in the community.”

Although he’s worked at Iowa State since 2011, Hochstein is new to the role of hearing officer, after being hired for the position in October 2015.

Hochstein earned his bachelor’s from the University of Nebraska at Kearney in 2009. He continued his education by earning his master’s in educational leadership at Minnesota State University, Mankato, where Hochstein said he found solace with his identity.

“It’s actually really great to see that most of the students that I work with, as far as undergraduates, are in a much different place then I was when I was their age,” Hochstein said. “I was not out in undergrad, and I did not come out until halfway through my grad school experience.”

Hochstein said his coming out process had much to do with the overcoming of internalized homophobia stemming from negative media images and growing up in a small town where people were conservative.

“I had to accept myself for who I was before I could come out to my friends and family,” Hochstein said. “I came out to grad school friends first.”

After a receptive and accepting response from his colleagues, Hochstein felt that he had the courage to come out to his mother and sisters. He decided to do so on the same day.

“They reacted very positively,” Hochstein said. “My mom told me that she loved me for who I was, no matter who I chose to marry.”

Upon earning his master’s in 2011, Hochstein focused his job search on states that did not discriminate against LGBTQA+ individuals as far as benefits and marriage rights.

He moved to Ames to work as a hall director for the Birch-Welch-Roberts residence hall at Iowa State shortly after graduation. Iowa State was the first place where Hochstein was out as a queer person. It also was the place where he met his husband, who had started working for the Thielen Student Health Center at the same time.

They’ve been married since October 2015. His husband now works for the American Lung Association in Des Moines.

“I want to make the experience for LGBT students and faculty better,” Hochstein said. “As a person who’s a part of that community, I feel that I have a responsibility to help advance LGBT issues.”

Hochstein feels encouraged by some of the recent moves that Iowa State has taken in regard to inclusion and diversity, one of them being the hiring of an LGBTQA+ program director.

“I’m encouraged by having someone who is solely dedicated to LGBT issues sitting in Beardshear Hall,” Hochstein said. “It will be great to have.”

Although Hochstein feels that Iowa State has taken several steps in the right direction, he believes there is still work to be done.

“There are some great things happening, but we can always do and be better,” Hochstein said.

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