Stephen Hillenburg holding the SpongeBob SquarePants bible in 2011
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Nickelodeon, an American TV channel which launched in 1979, has featured lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) characters in its programming.



See also: History of LGBT characters in animation: 2000s § Other all-ages animations

On June 18, 2002, Nickelodeon ran a program titled Nick News Special Edition: My Family Is Different. Produced by Linda Ellerbee's Lucky Duck Productions and hosted by Ellerbee, My Family Is Different featured children of gay and lesbian parents talking with children from households that oppose equal rights for gay and lesbian families.[1] This program was subject to much criticism from Christian organizations, such as the Washington-based Traditional Values Coalition, who believed the program pushed a "pro-homosexual agenda" and was not suitable for children.[2] Another organization that opposed this episode was the Parents Television Council who claimed they had no problem with same-sex parents but did not think it was appropriate for Nickelodeon's young target audience.[3]

The confirmation of SpongeBob in SpongeBob SquarePants as asexual was not done directly in the show. In 2005, in response to criticism from Focus on the Family, a Christian fundamentalist organization,[4][5] and the American Family Association,[6] also a Christian fundamentalist organization,[7][8] series creator Stephen Hillenburg described him as asexual, not gay.[9][10][11] He repeated this in 2002 when Focus on the Family claimed that SpongeBob SquarePants was "homosexual propaganda,"[12] with Alan Sears, head of the Alliance Defense Fund, and James Dobson of Focus on the Family saying the same.[13][14] One scholar argued that characters like SpongeBob SquarePants challenged the "signifiers of traditional masculinity," and noted that Spongebob was "primarily asexual," but has a traditional wardrobe, and his design uses masculine and feminine signifiers at the same time. Johnson also noted that Spongebob can fluctuate between "masculine aggression and...feminine positivity", and has gender ambiguity like Jerry and Bugs Bunny.[15]


See also: History of LGBT characters in animation: 2010s § Nickelodeon

On December 19, 2014, The Legend of Korra aired their season finale, which showed Korra and Asami holding hands,[16] showing they are in a relationship. As such, the show became one of the first western children's animation series to not only feature major LGBT characters, but also a lead LGBT character.[17][18] In the aftermath of series finale, which aired on Nickelodeon and, there were debates about "queer representation in children's media."[19] Some noted that while the relationship between two bisexual characters, Korra and Asami, was built up during the course of the series, the words "I love you" were never uttered, nor did the characters kiss.[20] Similarly, Kya of The Legend of Korra was shown to be lesbian in the graphic novel following the series finale. In July 2019, Michael Dante DiMartino, one of the series creators, in an interview with EW, noted that while the show's crew had always believed Kyoshi was bisexual, her feelings toward women and men were actually only explored in the young adult novel and in the comics branching off of the series.[21]

On June 2, 2015, gay drag queen RuPaul guest starred as a snail in the episode "Costume Boxing!" of the series Bubble Guppies.[22] He also guest starred as Jackie Slitherstein in the Harvey Beaks episode "Harvey's Favorite Book" which aired on July 18, 2015.[23] The next year, Nickelodeon's Hey Arnold! was confirmed to have two gay characters. Eugene Horowitz and Mr. Robert Simmons were confirmed as gay in July 2016 by the show's creator show's creator Craig Bartlett, but not explicitly stated in the series.[24]

In 2016, it was revealed that Hillenburg instructed those working on the show that SpongeBob should never have a romantic relationship, since he is asexual (as all real-life sea sponges are) and is too innocent for it.[25]

On July 20, 2016, an interracial gay couple, Howard and Harold McBride, was introduced in an episode of The Loud House titled "Overnight Success."[26] This couple was described by Michael Rubiner, executive producer of the show from 2018 to present, as only natural,[26] Even so, the latter was censored by a South African broadcaster, DStv,[27] despite the fact that it was met with "overwhelmingly positive reaction."[28] They would be the first pair of married male characters to be depicted on a Nickelodeon series.[28][29][30] In later years, Luna Loud would be revealed as a bisexual girl who sent a love letter to a girl named Sam Sharp in the June 2017 episode "L is for Love". She is also revealed to have a crush on a boy named Hugh.[31][32][30] Later on, Sam seems to feel similarly about Luna and appears to reciprocate Luna's feelings in that episode and others, with Lori describing them as beginning to date in the episode "Racing Hearts," though neither character calls their excursion a date throughout the episode.[33][34][35]

In October 2017, it was reported that a kiss between two female characters, Zarya Moonwolf and Kitty Boon, on the Nickelodeon show, Mysticons, was in danger of being cut. Despite this, the show showed the "development of a female-female romance," between Zarya, a main character, and her childhood friend, Kitty, known as "MoonBoon," culminating in romantic moments. In August 2018, the show's creator, Sean Jara, confirmed the two as a couple, noting that only one version of the episode was created and that the show's creative team fought for a kiss, but lost even though they managed "to keep the integrity of the love story."[36] In later tweets, Jara said there is a "beautiful love story" between Zarya and Kitty in the show, referring to the interactions between the two characters in episode 37 ("The Princess and the Pirate"), stated the importance of showing "love between LGBTQ characters on TV," and said that the kiss was cut from the episode because of "systemic homophobia" in the children's television industry, crediting Rebecca Sugar for making strides.[36] He then opined on the continual battle for more LGBTQ representation, cited an Entertainment Weekly article about LGBTQ representation in cartoons,[37] and praised the battles for more representation which go on behind the scenes. He said this saying that Nick did not pick up the show for more than 40 episodes[38] and, once again, confirmed Kitty and Zarya as a lesbian couple.[39]

Later, in September 2018, Jara said that they treated the Kitty and Zarya relationship "like all the other relationships in the show." He added that while he was nervous and aware of possible roadblocks, Matt Ferguson, the show's director, supported it, as did his writing team, with Ferguson adding that pushback came from not from people who were "evil" but rather from those who were "trying to do the best job at their particular job." Abbey White of Insider reported that when the show's studio changed the series to center on four teenage girls, Jara brought in more women and queer writers to the show's writing team, who were "responsible for building out an arc between lesbian characters Zarya Moonwolf and Kitty Boon," which fans gave the shipping name of "MoonBoon."[40] Jara recalled that he sent in the script for a kiss of the two characters to the show's studios, and Nickelodeon, and fellow producers working on the show, but the moment never aired, despite support from Nickelodeon, because a partner was concerned that the storyline was not "age-appropriate" for young viewers. As a result, despite Jara's attempts to convince the partner, the creative team had to scrap the kiss, and almost had to unravel the whole love story between Zarya and Kitty, but Jara fought for that to be included. In the article, Nelvana confirmed in a statement that the decision to remove the kiss was made during production of the show's second season, and said that they are committed to having "creative storytelling with diversity and inclusion at the forefront" when it comes to BIPOC and LGBTQ representation.

In 2019, Nickelodeon released Rocko's Modern Life: Static Cling, a television film and sequel to their 1993 series Rocko's Modern Life through Netflix. The producers worked with GLAAD to ensure that the transgender character, in the form of cartoonist frog Rachel Bighead (known as Ralph Bighead in the original series) as well as a plotline involving her coming out to her parents, Ed and Bev Bighead, was respectful to the LGBTQ+ community and fit within the show itself.[41]

In August 2019, the voice actor for the The Loud House character Dana Dufresne, Maddie Taylor, revealed that the character had transitioned from a man to a trans woman, like herself, and said that the character would return in another episode within season 4.[42] However, Season 4 concluded on July 23, 2020, although Dana would later reappear in the Season 6 episode "Prize Fighter". Additionally, the show featured two lesbian characters.[43] In 2021, GLAAD noted that the Loud House features Luna Loud, a possibly bisexual character,[40] and Sam, her girlfriend, along with Howard and Harold McBride, "the two Dads of the protagonist’s best friend Clyde."[44]

The same year, in September, animated miniseries Middle School Moguls began airing on the channel. One of the characters was a non-binary fashion mogul named Wren.[45] Also, one character, Yuna, in the main cast, had two moms, who appeared in two episodes as secondary characters who give Yuna moral support, giving her the inspiration to finish her fashion designs.[46]


See also: History of LGBT characters in animation: 2020s § Nickelodeon

In 2020, Nickelodeon debuted a new television show, Danger Force. The episode Say My Name portrayed two dads of a lost child in which Danger Force was trying to find his parents.[44] The same show also featured all four members (two males, two females) having a crush on male heartthrob, Creston. On June 13, 2020, Nickelodeon promoted LGBTQ+ characters in their shows, highlighting SpongeBob SquarePants and The Legend of Korra.[47] While some said this "proved" that SpongeBob was gay, Stephen Hillenburg, back in 2005, said he considered SpongeBob to be asexual, with one writer for Out writing "it's important to realize that those who are asexual are queer as well and are just as welcome to don rainbows and celebrate Pride this month."[47] It's Pony introduced Heston's aunt Meg and her girlfriend Marti.[48][49]

In a February 2020 episode of The Loud House, Lainey, a member of Lynn's roller derby team, is shown dating a girl named Alice.[50]

In February 2021, Nickelodeon posted an online-exclusive video on the Blue's Clues & You! YouTube channel featuring an alphabet song in which the letter "P" stood for "P is full of Pride!" and featured multiple Pride flags.[51] In May, the same channel posted Pride Parade-themed songs that were performed by drag queen Nina West.

Betty Deville, mother of Phil and Lil DeVille, appears in the Rugrats reboot series, which began in May 2021. In the original series, she was married to a man Howard DeVille. In the reboot, Betty is a gay single mother.[52] Betty is voiced by queer actress Natalie Morales. Morales described the character as a "single mom with her own business who has twins" but still hangs out with her community and friends, even casually talking about her ex-girlfriend.[53] In the first episode "Second Time Around", Angelica sets Grandpa Lou up with dates on a seniors-only dating app called Silver Beagles. One of the dates is a man named Graham Prescott who is charmed by Lou. Graham becomes a recurring character in later episodes and is revealed to be bisexual. The second season introduces Betty's girlfriend Trish.[54] Trish is voiced by bisexual actress Alia Shawkat.

In June 2021, Kevin Sullivan, a story editor for The Loud House told Insider that no one stopped him from using the word "lesbian" as part of a storyline involving Luna and Sam, her crush, and that he was proud of the whole episode.[40] Sullivan added that the fact Luna wasn't more directly identified as a lesbian was not due to pressure from Nickelodeon and that he is glad the team didn't push it further because Luna then becomes "representative of so many more young people struggling with their identity." The Danger Force episode Manlee Man features a transgender boy Quinn played by real-life transgender actor Sasha Cohen. The episode was nominated for a GLAAD Media Award.[55]

In September 2021, Izzy Garcia, the Green Ranger from Power Rangers Dino Fury was revealed to be a lesbian in the episode "The Matchmaker".[56][57] She is the second LGBTQ Power Ranger in the franchise as Trini was portrayed as a lesbian in the 2017 Power Rangers film. The series won a GLAAD Award for Outstanding Kids and Family Programming.[58] In 2023, the series was nominated again for Outstanding Kids and Family Programming.[59]

In December 2021, The Casagrandes season 3 episode "Throwing Pains" revealed Ronnie Anne's classmate Becky to be a lesbian as she is in a relationship with a girl named Dodge.[60]

In February 2022, the Big Nate episode "The Pimple" featured substitute teacher Donna. She is revealed to be a lesbian when Donna introduced her wife Kathleen to Dee Dee.[61] Dee Dee herself would later fall in love with a girl named Amy in the episode "Six-Tween Candles" which was released in December 2022.[62] The series was nominated for a GLAAD award for Outstanding Kids & Family Programming - Animated in 2023.[59] Also in February of that same year, the Baby Shark's Big Show! episode "The Great Skate Case" introduced Vola's moms Viv and Vera. They also later appeared in the Mother's Day episode "Operation Happy Mommies".[63] Viv is voiced by bisexual comedian and actress Sherry Cola.

In July 2022, The Loud House episode "Food Courting" confirmed Leni's friend Miguel to be gay when he had a crush on a guy named Gavin.[64] Miguel is voiced by gay actor Tonatiuh Elizarraraz.

Monster High (2022) features a non-binary Frankie Stein and Deuce Gorgon's mothers Medusa and Lyra.[65] Frankie Stein is voiced by non-binary actor iris menas. Frankie Stein is also portrayed as non-binary in Monster High: The Movie. The film was nominated for a GLAAD Award for Outstanding Kids & Family Programming - Live Action.[59] In the episode "Horoscare", Cleo de Nile and Frankie Stein are revealed to have feelings for each other.[66] Cleo and Frankie were featured as the subject of a relationship-themed compilation video that was uploaded on the Monster High YouTube channel in July 2023.[67]

Star Trek: Prodigy features Zero, a genderless alien who prefers they/them pronouns.[68]

In November 2022, the Transformers: EarthSpark two-part midseason finale "Age of Evolution" introduced Nightshade, one of the three new Terrans.[69] Nightshade uses they/them pronouns. Nightshade is voiced by non-binary actor Z Infante. In another two-part episode "Home", Nightshade meets Sam, a non-binary human who goes by she/they pronouns.

In March 2023, Bossy Bear introduced Ginger's dads Tyler and Greg.[70] Tyler and Greg are voiced by gay singer Lance Bass and his real-life husband Michael Turchin.

In August 2023, the Paw Patrol spinoff series Rubble & Crew introduced a non-binary character River in the episode "The Crew Builds an Observatory".[71][72] River uses they/them pronouns. River is voiced by non-binary actor Chiang Ma.

On February 11, 2024, Rock Paper Scissors featured The Hipponoid Commander, who, in the episode "Paper's Big Lie", is shown to impress his unnamed boyfriend by becoming a warrior.[73]

See also


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