8 Enby FAQs: Meaning, Pronouns, Sexuality

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Maybe you saw someone wearing an enby pride t-shirt. Maybe a friend, relative, or mutual social media connection has recently become enby. Maybe you saw the term in an Instagram caption.

Whatever the impulse, you asked Google “What does enby mean?” in search of a definition.

You have come to the right place. Here’s what you need to know.

“Enby” is shorthand for non-binary.

As a reminder: someone who is not binary has a gender that does not fit exclusively into the categories “man” or “woman”, says Jesse KahnLCSW, CST, director and sexologist at The Gender and Sexuality Therapy Center At New York.

According to them, it could be used by anyone whose gender is:

  • neither male nor female
  • somewhere between man and woman
  • beyond the gender binary
  • more expansive than a single sex
  • completely independent of the gender binary

Because it means so many different things to different people, to know exactly what someone means when they say they’re not binary, you’d have to ask them.

And in case you’re wondering: Enby is pronounced exactly as you might guess — en-bee.

Enby is simply the phonetic pronunciation of “NB”, which is an abbreviation of the word “non-binary”.

Curious to know why the term enby is used instead of NB? This is because NB is widely known as short for Non-Black and is a way for non-Black people of color to identify.

The non-binary and trans communities have started using the phonetic pronunciation of NB as a shortcut, rather than the two letters themselves, to avoid confusion or appropriation.

The term has been in circulation for nearly a decade. It was first defined on Urban dictionary in 2013 and first appeared on Tumblr the same year.

Big question!

More or less, the terms have the same definition. However, the terms cannot be used interchangeably.

Why? Because some non-binary people who feel affirmed by the “non-binary” identifier may not feel the same way about the term “enby”. (More on why below.)

So while some non-binary people identify equally with both terms, not all do.

First, only use the term for someone who has explicitly stated that they feel affirmed by being called or referenced as enby.

“When in doubt, spell it out” writing nonbinary sexologist Jamie LeClaire, which educates about the intersection of sexuality, gender and identity. “These people, I don’t care if one or more non-binary people you know told you it was okay. If so, use it ONLY with them.

As for How? ‘Or’ What you would use the term in a sentence to refer to those who like the term?

“Basically, you would use it instead of boy or girl, man or woman,” writing twitter user @nonbinarythings. Or, any other genre for that matter! “It can also be used instead of male or female.”

The reasons you might choose to use the term “enby” are similar to the reasons you might choose to use any other identifier:

  • It gives you a comfortable feeling.
  • Using the term for yourself, or hearing the term used to describe you, makes you feel like you’ve come home.
  • It’s fun, playful or lighthearted.
  • It connects you to your community.

Remember: using the term now is not a promise to use and identify with the term next week, next year, or even tomorrow!

Maybe it’s the phonetic similarities between baby and enby. Perhaps it’s the fact that the majority of non-binary communities that use the term are younger. It is perhaps the fact that the term is most often used with other gendered terms that imply youth, such as boy and girl.

For these and other reasons, some people find the term “enby” condescending.

“It may seem infantilizing and childish”, writing The Claire. “The ‘cuteness’ of the term often makes many feel dysphoric.” (That is, disconnected from their body or invisible in their sex.)

Another reason some people dislike the term, LeClaire says, is that it’s often used as a noun rather than an adjective.

“You wouldn’t call someone ‘gay’ or ‘black,’ would you? It feels dehumanizing,” LeClaire writes.

Yes! There are many, many different words used to describe each person’s experience with gender.

“There’s often a misunderstanding about non-binary as a sort of third gender,” Kahn explains. “There’s this misconception that you can be male, female, or non-binary.”

But there are more gender identities than these three options. To name a few:

Click here for a comprehensive guide to terms that describe gender identity, presentation and expression.

Simply put, “enby” is just shorthand for non-binary. Despite this, do not use the terms interchangeably to describe someone unless they have given you explicit permission to do so.


Gabrielle Kassel is a New York-based sex and wellness writer and Level 1 CrossFit trainer. She became a morning person, tested over 200 vibrators, and ate, drank, and brushed with charcoal. – all in the name of journalism. In her spare time, she can be found reading self-help books and romance novels, doing bench press or pole dancing. Follow her on instagram.

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