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11 Feb, 2019 11:37

What’s under the kilt? Highland Games may include ‘non-binary events’ after threats to slash funding

What’s under the kilt? Highland Games may include ‘non-binary events’ after threats to slash funding

A traditional Scottish competition of strength, skill and copious whisky consumption is set to become more inclusive after political pressure, even though a local trans group says none of its members have asked to participate.

Ian Grieve, secretary of the Scottish Highland Games Association (SHGA), which oversees 60 separate competitive festivals all over the country, has sent out a letter to its members saying that the traditionally male-dominated events may have to open up to women, and “it might not stop there.”

In the email Grieve included a link from Scottish Athletics, the official ruling body, that said starting from this year all of its events would include a non-binary category.


“We don’t have an official policy view on non-binary events, but we may discuss it. It is definitely going to get more complex. There might even be other categories out there as well,” Grieve told the Scotsman newspaper, when asked to comment on his missive. “Scottish Athletics are being a wee bit progressive. Good luck to them.”

In addition to the sporting organization, Rhoda Grant, Labour MSP for the Highlands and Islands, said in December that she would lobby for the Highland Games to have their government funding cut, unless they became “more inclusive.”

The initiative appears to be coming entirely from above.

The Scottish Trans Alliance told the Telegraph that it is “not aware of any trans individuals or groups who have been applying pressure on the Highland Games to become non-binary inclusive.

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Its manager James Morton said that the priority should be including more women’s events.

The spring and summer tradition dates back to at least early medieval times, though it was codified in its current form in the 19th century.

Among the more established events are tossing the caber – a full-length pine trunk, tug’o’war, stone put (which is similar to shot put, but with a rock), and Maide-leisg which involves two men pulling on the same stick, until one is raised off the ground. Several of the tossing events, as well as musical and other non-athletic competitions, are already open to women.

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