Joel is from Charleston, South Carolina, where his great-grandmother had an affair with George Gershwin. He graduated from Harvard with an A.B. in linguistics and from NYU with an M.F.A. in musical theater writing. His musical Signs of Life, with lyrics by Len Schiff and book by Peter Ullian, was produced off-Broadway in 2010 and in Chicago in 2013; his musical Blood Drive, with words by Rachel Sheinkin, was produced at the Bridewell Theatre in London in 2004, the Provincetown Playhouse in New York in 2003, and the Theatre Latte Da in Minneapolis in 2003. Joel wrote the music and lyrics for Spirit Child, with book and additional lyrics by John Herin, commissioned by the Thomas Pullen Performing Arts School in Washington, D.C.; he has also written songs for the 52nd Street Project. He has been in residence three times at the O’Neill Music Theater Conference, and his work from his first year there has been heard at the Duplex and Joe’s Pub in New York. He has been the artist in residence at the Jakarta International School in Indonesia and is the author of Gay Haiku (Random House, 2005), Swish: My Quest to Become the Gayest Person Ever and What Ended Up Happening Instead (Random House, 2008), and Lawfully Wedded Husband: How My Gay Marriage Will Save the American Family (University of Wisconsin Press, 2013). He is or has been a knitter, aerobics instructor, go-go boy, cheerleader, and math teacher. He has been fired by Harvard, the Public Theater, and the Anglo-Catholic Church.