Prime Timers: A New Age for Activism

From authors and actors to artists and activists, these 25 LGBT prime timers are still on the front lines in the battle for equality and show no signs of slowing down anytime soon.



John Waters, 67, Director, Screenwriter, Actor
There are a number of words that have been used to describe John Samuel Waters Jr. throughout his career. He’s been known as a director, screenwriter, actor, journalist, comedian, artist, and trailblazer, but he’s never been accused of being mundane. The maverick moviemaker left his mark on a generation of LGBT filmgoers who grew up watching — and loving — many of his cult films, such as Pink Flamingos, Female Trouble, and Desperate Living. Waters’s work also launched the careers of several actors who are now considered LGBT icons, including Mink Stole, David Lochary, and Divine. Even has Waters began to skirt the mainstream with later films like Hairspray, Cry-Baby, Serial Mom, and Pecker, he still maintained his trademark style, a choice the filmmaker says reflects his view of the world. “I always said that my audience is [made up of] gay people that don’t get along with other gay people; black people that don’t get along with other black people; minorities that can’t stand even the rules of their own minority. And I’m one of them,” he said in an interview with Big Think. “Too much gayly correctness makes me crazy too. It’s like, are gay people losing their sense of humor? They have to be perfect now? I’m for gay villains. I think it’s healthy to admit there’s bad gay movies. Gay is not enough. It’s a good start.”


Edie Windsor, 84, Supreme Court Plaintiff
Our inspiration for starting this list could very well be Edie Windsor, who defied the conventional wisdom of LGBT organizations that she says once turned her away. Then she went on to bring her case all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. By now, you've heard the story of how Windsor helped bring down section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act. After the death of her late wife of 44 years, Thea Spyer, Windsor was faced with the unfairness of a bill for $360,000 in estate taxes. That injustice won't happen to others because Windsor fought for her marriage to be recognized by the federal government.  "If I had to survive Thea, what a glorious way to do it," said Windsor in a news conference after winning in June. "And she would be so pleased."