The Blue Light District
There's this myth that there's a Blue Light District in the Red Light District in Amsterdam. This apparently ended up one time in a travel guide once in the US, and ever since then people have been telling the fable of this 'Blue Light District' being located somewhere in Amsterdam's Red Light District. This blue light district is supposedly an area featuring only transgender sex workers, which could be identified by blue light (aka blacklight) in their windows instead of a red light.
The information from this travel guide apparently found its way to many of the tour guides that these days that walk around in the Red Light District, because many misinformed tour guides mention this. But fact is there is NO Blue Light District in Amsterdam.

So here are the facts. There's no Blue Light District, there are a couple of streets here and there where sometimes (but not always), transgender sex workers work. But since they're scattered around the Red Light District, you can't really speak of a 'Blue Light District'. Also the fact that it's called the Blue Light District is misleading. It comes from the idea that transgender sex workers would use blue lights to identify themselves as transgender sex workers, in contrast to the red lights that would be used by female sex workers. But fact is that this isn't true a all. All sex workers, both female and transgender, both blue and red lights. So the idea that a transgender sex worker can be recognized by a blue light is simply wrong, since every sex worker has blue light.

The use of blue light, or actually a blacklight as it is really called, is necessary to give some contrast to the otherwise completely red look you would get if you'd only use red lights. Otherwise everyone would look like a freaking tomato.

The misinformation that is out there, mostly coming these days from tour guides is huge. Many tour guides have no idea what they're talking about. They have no real knowledge about the area, no good information, and only based their story on what they heard from others, without verifying if it's true or not. So don't let yourself be fooled by many of these tour guides giving out wrong information, often it's only partially true or not true at all. Especially many of the big tour operators seem ignorant and uninformed. But even worse, they don't seem to care. It are also these big tour operators that lead around very big tour groups around, sometimes even up to 80(!) people, groups which are way too big for the small area that is the Red Light District with its narrow streets and alleys.

But the misinformation about this so called Blue Light District also has had a very negative side effects for the girls working behind the windows. Because potential clients have been misinformed about the use of blue lights in the area, clients often walk around for hours, searching for sex workers without a blue light, because they have been taught that a blue light means it's a transgender and not a female sex worker. This eventually leads to clients either giving up on their search for a 'female sex worker', because they can't find any, because they think every sex worker with a blue light is actually a transgender. Or they walk around for hours, and become confused as to who is transgender and who is not, making them scared to come in, because they don't know who is female and who is transgender.

Especially for the female sex workers that work in the Bloedstraat, that is often called out to be the 'Blue Light District, this is difficult. The confusion about this street comes from the fact that during the day this are is almost predominantly transgender sex workers. However, during the night behind a portion of those windows are just regular female sex workers, leaving clients confused who is female and who is not. The misinformation from the tour guides therefore often has as a consequence that many clients looking for female sex workers avoid this street, making it very difficult for the female sex workers in this street to make some good money.

Basically there are a few places where transgender sex workers can be found, and not one specific area or only in this area. The Bloedstraat during the day is pretty much all transgender, but during the night it's a mix between female and transgender sex workers. But the Barndesteeg is both during the night and the day also mostly transgender sex workers. But even a popular street such as the Stoofsteeg has some transgender sex workers, even though most people don't even know this. But also on the Oudezijds Achterburgwal during the day and night you can find transgender sex workers, although the majority are female.

With all this misinformation about who is female and who is transgender, sex workers often loose clients for no good reason other than being poorly informed. There is actually not one area with only transgender sex workers. There are streets where they sometimes are in the majority, but there's no area specifically that can be dubbed a Blue Light District. Nor is it true that only transgender sex workers use blue lights, or that you can recognize them by the use of blue lights. All sex workers use blue lights, so don't keep walking around for a sex worker without a blue light, because you'll never find it.

Dutch version


8 Responses
  1. Korhomme Says:

    During the First World War, private British soldiers had the use of the 'red light' facilities; but there would be a sergeant controlling access, and time was always very limited.

    By contrast, officers had the run of the 'blue light' facilities; champagne, music and no time pressures.

    And the 'red' and 'blue' lights were literally that colour.


  2. Feema Says:

    Is it not possible to clearly advertise which gender the workers are? There is clearly confusion everyone needs to work out a way to solve it.


  3. The actual facts- Bloedstraat is 100% trans day time and a minimum of 70% at night. No woman ever works west of where Gordijnensteeg joins. The windows mostly have red lights prominent but some workers choose to make their rooms a little bluer to show they are trans. This also occurs on Barndesteeg. So the blue light district certainly exists but it's more subtle than often claimed. As usual the truth lies between what Felicia says and what's reported.
    Example- Barndesteeg - http://www.amsterdam-red-light-district-maps.com/images/BarndesteegBlue.jpg


  4. Another shot of barndesteeg- http://www.amsterdam-red-light-district-maps.com/images/BarndesteegBlue2.jpg


  5. Felicia Anna Says:

    Gee, GeorgeAmsterdam. I wonder who knows better how stuff works. You as an outsider, or me as someone who works there? What do you think?

    FYI. You want me to post a picture of other rooms in the Red Light District not located in the streets you mentioned, showing they used blue lights as well, or do you think you can Google them yourself?

    Stop being such a know-it-all. One street you can't call a district, especially not if Barndesteeg only has very few windows, and Bloedstraat is mixed. I've frequently seen you write bullshit about the Red Light District.

    EVERY room in the Red Light District has both blue and red lights. Also my room has more blue lights than red lights, or am I a transgender now as well, George? FYI if you go into Barndesteeg, or Bloedstraat, you will see the same colour lights as every else. Or did you think the transgenders in the Stoofsteeg or on the main canal where actually women, George?

    Perhaps you should pay better attention next time you come here, George, in stead of just staring at the girls here. Or where the secretly guys? Because who knows, maybe you thought they where girls...


  6. Anonymous Says:

    I visited Amsterdam in February of 1992 and found myself in the "Blue Light" district (it was a small section of a street).There were men in the street shopping for men in the windows (actually a door). There were blue lights (blacklight) at each doorway. A short walk away was the red light street. I don't know what it looks like now, but this was in 1992.


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    Romanian prostitute working in the Red Light District in Amsterdam (De Wallen), speaking out for the truth behind prostitution. Blogging about prostitution, human trafficking, forced prostitution, politics and all the myths surrounding it. Member of PROUD, the Dutch union of sex workers.