Social media was rife with speculation over the weekend about the sexual orientation of a beloved character from one of the longest-running animated series – Spongebob!

It all started on June 13, when Nickelodeon posted a tweet to celebrate Pride Month. “Celebrating pride month with the LGBTQ+ community and their allies this month and every month,” tweeted the US-based company. Accompanying the post with photos of Kora, the bisexual protagonist from The Legend of Korro, Canadian trans actor Michael D Cohen, portrays the character Schwoz Schwartz in Henry Danger and Spongebob. The tweet received over 100,000 retweets and 300,000 likes.

Soon enough “Spongebob Gay” started trending on Twitter. Some users literally rolled their eyes.

Gay rumours have followed Spongebob since its debut two decades ago and not without reason. Spongebob, who lives with his pet snail who meows like a cat is best friends with Patrick, a pink starfish. Their close relationship including episode where they hold hands has received knowing winks from queer fans. Spongebob and Patrick’s favourite superhero TV show is called “The Adventures of Mermaid Man and Barnacle Boy”. Among their friends are Squidward, a squid who loves taking bubble baths and a tomboyish squirrel, Sandy Cheeks.

A 2002 article in the Wall Street Journal had reported about Spongebobs huge gay fan base, with merchandise being popular purchases in queer retail shops in New York and Atlanta.

The rumours were fanned again when in  a 2002 episode ‘Rock-A-Bye Baby‘ Spongebob and Patrick adopted and raised a baby scallop. They settled the argument over parental roles, with Spongebob pointing out that Patrick could not be mother, though he wanted to, as he never wore a shirt.

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 In a 2003 piece “Queertoons: The dynamics of same sex desire in the animated cartoon” author Jeffrey P. Dennis says: “Spongebob and his next-door neighbor Patrick are paired with arguably erotic intensity”

The Nickelodeon tweet was soon taken by twitter and media reports as confirmation that Spongebob was coming out as gay. Others pointed out that Spongebob had actually not come out as gay – the photo has the super-absorbent Spongebob show off rainbow colours, but the tweet iself said “LGBTQ+ community and their allies/”

So which was it, was Spongebob gay or an ally?

Marine biologist and animator Stephen Hillenburg created the series Spongebob Squarepants in 1999 and was the highest-rated children’s series on television.

Hillenburg, who passed away in 2018, addressed the gay ruomours in the 2002 WSJ article and said Spongebob was not gay. “I always think of (the characters) as being somewhat asexual… I do think that the attitude of the show is about tolerance. Everybody is different, and the show embraces that. No one is shut out.”

So, the final word is: Spongeboob might be gay, or could be an ally, or asexual. Whatever Spongebob identifies as, we know for sure that Spongebob is an incredible “queer toon!”

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