In celebration of Pride Month, Nickelodeon made a tweet that some thought indicated that one of their most famous characters, SpongeBob Squarepants, is gay.
Celebrating #Pride with the LGBTQ+ community and their allies this month and every month 🌈 (🎨: by @ramzymasri) https://t.co/pENmTaQB0h— Nickelodeon (@Nickelodeon)1592054553.0
The hashtag #SpongebobIsGay began trending as a result of fans inquiry into his identity. With tweets like this:
Spongebob being gay is like that gay friend we all have who is still trying to hide it but like everyone already kn… https://t.co/bVWtoLRvRh— Dwight Martinez (@Dwight Martinez)1592073731.0
But just because Nickelodeon made a tweet that shows SpongeBob within the LGBTQ+ community doesn't automatically make him gay. Publications like TMZ and CNN have both published pieces that hint that SpongeBob might be gay based on this tweet.
However, Stephen Hillenburg said in the early 2000s that SpongeBob was not gay but that he thought of all the characters to be "somewhat asexual." And in that same interview, Hillenburg said, "We're just trying to be funny, and this has got nothing to do with the show."
Asexuality, or "ace," means to not have sexual attraction to others. But it is an identity that can't be pigeon-holed, some ace people have romantic relationships without sex while some don't have any romantic relationships at all.
In today's society, asexuality is recognized as a part of the spectrum. So, while Hillenburg might not have intended for SpongeBob to be a part of the community, he still can be.
We can all be excited that SpongeBob is a part of the community and can be claimed as the major queer icon he always was. He doesn't have to be gay, he can be ace. And all the ways we see SpongeBob cross-dressing, holding hands with different characters, and embodying his identity might not have anything to do with who he is or isn't sexually attracted to. SpongeBob is just an asexual sponge living his best life and finding himself as a major leader in the LGBTQ+ community.