However, the First Minister later said it is “almost certainly the case” that Bryson, 31, is not actually transgender. Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross repeatedly quizzed Ms Sturgeon about the issue at First Minister’s Questions.
Bryson – born Adam Graham – was moved from Cornton Vale women’s prison in Stirling to HMP Edinburgh last month following a public backlash. A temporary ban on trans prisoners with a history of violence against women being moved to female facilities was subsequently announced by the Scottish Government.
Mr Ross attempted to corner Ms Sturgeon on her belief in self-ID – the process by which a trans person does not require a medical diagnosis to identify as a gender different to that of their birth sex.
Ms Sturgeon said: “This individual claims to be a woman – what I said was that I don’t have information about whether those claims have validity or not. But I don’t think Douglas Ross and I are disagreeing here, because what I think is relevant in this case is not whether the individual is a man or claims to be a woman or is trans, what is relevant is that the individual is a rapist.
“That is how the individual should be described, and it is that that should be the main consideration in deciding how the individual is dealt with – that is why the individual is in a male prison, not in the female prison. These are the issues that matter.”
Mr Ross read a quote from one of Bryson’s victims, who said: “I don’t believe he’s truly transgender. I feel as if he’s made a mockery out of them using it. As far as I’m concerned, that was to make things easier for himself.
“You’ve got genuine cases where people are desperate to get reassignment for the right reasons because they’ve been born into that body … not because they’ve raped two people and decided that’s an easy way out.”
Mr Ross asked the First Minister why she is “giving rapists an easy way out”, a comment Ms Sturgeon said “does a disservice to victims of crime”.
The First Minister said: “The quote that Douglas Ross narrated there, my feeling is that is almost certainly the case, which is why the key factor in this case is not the individual’s claim to be a woman, the key and only important factor in this is that the individual is convicted of rape – the individual is a rapist – and that is the factor that should be the deciding one about the decisions about how that prisoner is now treated.”
Ms Sturgeon went on to say it was “really important” to “look seriously” at the issues thrown up by the Bryson case, adding: “But that in doing so, we bear in mind two things. Firstly, as I’ve said, that we do not further stigmatise trans people generally – I think that is important – but secondly that we don’t cause undue concern amongst the public.
“If there are issues to be addressed we address them, but we do that in a way that’s not just calm, but doesn’t misrepresent the situation, because that is in nobody’s interest.”
Asked if Bryson is a woman, SNP justice secretary Keith Brown previously said: "I think that is the case. We have to accept people identify as, in this case, women.”