Speaking at an event on violence against women and girls hosted by Zero Tolerance Scotland on Tuesday, one attendee shouted “shame on you” at Nicola Sturgeon as she spoke.
Responding, Ms Sturgeon warned against further stigmatising trans people.
The Gender Recognition Reform (Scotland) Bill is working its way through Holyrood. It proposes to remove the requirement for a medical diagnosis of gender dysphoria as a condition of acquiring a gender recognition certificate.
The Bill would also drop the minimum age of applicants from 18 to 16, as well as limiting the amount of time most applicants need to live in their acquired gender to three months, with a further three-month reflection period.
Amendments to the Bill at stage two mean the time limit for 16 and 17-year-olds is increased to six months, while another provision was inserted to say the Bill would have no impact on the Equality Act.
In a video posted on social media, the heckler said: “You are allowing paedophiles, sex offenders and rapists to self-ID in Scotland and put women at risk. Women campaigning for women’s rights is not against trans people.
“Shame on you, you’re letting down vulnerable women in Scotland, not allowed to have their own spaces away from any male.”
The heckler claimed some women have been raped by trans women – although she did not say which specific cases she was referring to.
The heckler was praised on Twitter by author JK Rowling, who has been an outspoken critic of the reforms, saying she would like to send the woman “a crate of her favourite tipple”.
Rowling posted to Twitter: “In spite of all careful precautions, the First Minister has been accidentally exposed to some freedom of speech. Heads will surely roll.”
Concerns have been raised in recent years about the impact the Bill could have on single-sex spaces, with some critics saying it could put women at risk – a charge the Government has repeatedly denied.
Under the 2010 Equality Act, people who have undergone gender reassignment can be legally refused entry to single-sex spaces for certain reasons, such as a women’s refuge or changing area.
Last week, the Government backed an amendment to the Bill that said it would not impact on the Equality Act, put forward by Labour MSP Pam Duncan-Glancy.
After the female heckler appeared to be removed from the room, the First Minister apologised if her own presence had sparked the confrontation. “I do not, as I know this organisation does not, seek to close down anyone’s freedom of speech,” she said.
“It’s important that voices are heard, but it is important that all of us get the opportunity to speak freely about these issues. Much of what I am going to say today is about male violence towards women, because it is men that commit violence against women.
“In my long experience, most men who commit violence against women don’t feel the need to change gender to do that. Those who do, my argument is we should focus on them – because they are men abusing a system to attack women. What we shouldn’t do is further stigmatise a group of women who are too stigmatised already.”