SpongeBob SquarePants has officially come out as a member of the LGBTQ community! On Saturday, to celebrate Pride Month, Nickelodeon took to Twitter to celebrate a few of its own characters who identify as LGBTQ, sharing a photo of the beloved cartoon sponge decked out in rainbows. SpongeBob's image was shared alongside photos of Korra from Avatar: The Legend of Korra, whose bisexuality has been written into the show, and transgender Canadian actor Michael Cohen, who played Schwoz Schwartz in Henry Danger, leading many to believe that the tweet signaled SpongeBob as being more than just an ally.
The tweet immediately had fans speculating that it meant SpongeBob identifies as gay, or somewhere on the LGBTQ+ spectrum, and it immediately drew praise. Reacting to the tweet, one person wrote, "we stan spongebob the gay icon," sharing several images of the character. Another person called for "GAY SPONGEBOB STANS RISEEEEEEE." The announcement gained so much attention that "Spongebob Gay" even began trending on Twitter. As a few others pointed out, however, Niceklodeon's tweet could also mean that SpongeBob is an ally but does not identify as a member of the LGBTQ community.
Speculation regarding the beloved cartoon character's sexuality has been a topic of discussion for years, with many citing SpongeBob's close relationship to Patrick Star as evidence that he could possibly be gay. In 2005, SpongeBob SquarePants creator Stephen Hillenburg, addressing speculation that the character was gay, told Reuters that SpongeBob was most likely asexual. Hillenburg said that "whenever intended them to be gay," and that he'd "consider them to be almost asexual." He added that "we're just trying to be funny and this has got nothing to do with the show," according to PEOPLE.
Those claims echoed similar ones made by Hillenburg, who died in 2018 at the age of 57 due to complications resulting from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, more commonly known as ALS, in 2002. According the Independent, Hillenburg said that "everybody is different, and the show embraces that." Describing SpongeBob as an "oddball," a character who is "kind of weird, but he's kind of special," he said that he "always think of them as being somewhat asexual."
Despite Nickelodeon's tweet, speculation surrounding SpongeBob's sexuality continues. Nickelodeon has not yet responded to requests for comment from multiple outlets.