As most readers of my journal know, I am a transgender woman. As part of the process of transitioning, I've been changing the names of the various accounts I use online.
I encountered a roadblock when I wanted to change my Steam username, but couldn't because of Steam's policy that accounts cannot be renamed. (That situation eventually got resolved when you guys spread the word about what was going on, but at the time it was really frustrating.)
Since then I've been keeping track of whether their policy has changed. That appears not to be the case, sadly - one-and-a-half years ago I asked if anything had changed, and the answer was no. And now, it appears as if Steam is at it again, in exactly the same way as it did three-and-a-half years ago with my original request.
A new friend of mine, Katy (kateunafraid) is trying to get Steam support to change her username.
( Here's how her ticket started (ticket 4642-QTSL-8416, reproduced with permission) )Oh hey, I recognise this. That's exactly the same stock answer they sent me, with just the name of the menu option to click changed.
Now, like me, Katy has already done all this. Changing the names that are visible to other people isn't the issue here; the issue is changing the username itself.
As I stated in the follow-up post when this was resolved for me:
...a username is not just an arbitrary selection of letters and numbers. That is to say, from a technical perspective it is, but in all other respects it's part of an identity. For a lot of people, that identity overlaps with their real life identity, and if that identity changes, it only makes sense that the username should be able to be changed along with it.
Now, it's true that a lot of sites don't have the ability to change your usernames. Conversely, however, those same sites often do not involve financial transactions, or if they do, they normally allow at least an option to transfer any purchased assets to another account.
Steam doesn't even do that. What Steam expects you to do if you want to change username is to register a new account and re-purchase ALL your games. If you don't do that, you will be forced to either split your games between two different accounts, or to leave Steam entirely.
Um, no. Nobody should ever have to give up hundreds, even thousands of dollars' worth of games because of an identity change. Yet that is exactly what's happening with many people in the same situation. Why is this allowed?
You may remember that in my post one-and-a-half years ago where I asked Steam staff if they had made any policy changes
, I outlined a deliberately narrow group to ask about, because I felt that if any policy change had been made, it would apply to the people within these criteria:
...having had a legal name change (with evidence in the form of legally-recognised documentation such as a deed poll or statutory declaration), a username which was clearly based on their old name, and a clean VAC record...
I believe the option to change username should be available, at the very least, to people who meet these criteria. I would not be fundamentally opposed to this username change being subject to an additional charge, but I do believe that if you fit these criteria, imposing an additional charge on top of the charges already incurred by obtaining the legally-recognised evidence doesn't really make sense.
I don't believe that these criteria are unreasonable, and Katy meets all three. That being the case, I believe that it's reasonable to ask Steam to allow Katy to change her Steam username, hence this post.
As with the last time this happened, this is a public post on DW (as are most of my posts). Please feel free to link to it from elsewhere if you agree!
(Subscribers to this journal should watch for another post after this one that I'm going to make access-only; I'm writing an email to Gabe to hopefully get this sorted out for all trans people, and I'd like your thoughts on it!)
So, you may remember that two years ago, Valve transferred my games from an old Steam account to my current one, in what disappointingly appeared to be a one-off.
Just to make sure, however, four days ago I asked Steam Support for an update on what would happen nowadays for people that were in my position.
( These are my three contributions to the Support ticket. )The main question I asked in this ticket was this (emphasis added):
If someone else were in the same situation as I was two years ago, having had a legal name change (with evidence in the form of legally-recognised documentation such as a deed poll or statutory declaration), a username which was clearly based on their old name, and a clean VAC record, would Valve be willing to change the account name upon the submission of such evidence? (For the purposes of this question, 'change the account name' may also include creation of a new account and all licences registered on the old account transferred to the new one, as that was how my own ticket was resolved.)
Now, I realise that this is a pretty narrow field. This was intentional in order to increase the chances that they might be receptive. I do realise that there are trans* people out there who don't meet these criteria. Policy changes always have to start somewhere, though, and I understand the issues involved. I figured that if any policy change at all had been made, this narrow definition would fit inside it.
Today, they responded. (In fact, it was Walter who responded; the same person who replied in the other ticket to assist me with transferring the games.)
So, what was their answer?
4 Message by Support Tech Walter on Thu, 16th May 2013 8:26 pm
We have not changed any policies regarding account names. As mentioned in your original ticket, this is for security reasons.
While we understand this is a frustration for you, we have this in place by design. There are no plans to change this at this time, however I have passed your comments on to the appropriate people.
Disappointing, to say the least. There is still no reasoning given for not being able to change account names, besides the very vague "this is for security reasons". (To be fair, I didn't actually ask for an explanation in this ticket, but still.)
I'm really disappointed by Valve right now. :(
Well, my issue with Steam about my username has been resolved. After you guys spread the word - via Twitter, journal posts, and even Reddit (twice), a support person replied to the ticket I quoted from in my post to tell me that I could create a new account and they would transfer the games from my old account to my new one.
This is a great outcome, and I want to thank Valve for allowing this to happen, as well as everybody who spread the word, thereby bringing it to Valve's attention. I've now created the new account and the games have been transferred over, and they seem to work fine - in particular, one of the games I expected to have issues with (GTA4) has had (so far) no issues at all, despite its SecuROM protection and Games for Windows LIVE setup. (I did get issued a new key to use for it, but I expected that, since I was effectively a different user.)
( I also want to respond to some of the stuff that was said about me by others. )
One thing I asked in the ticket after all this happened was whether there were any plans to change the policy, and I suggested that Steam could allow it for people who have legal name change documents, which should pretty effectively prevent fraud or ban/VAC evasion. Their reply was, and I quote:
We appreciate your suggestion, however I have no information on upcoming Steam client changes or updates.
I've asked that the suggestion be submitted to management, if possible. (I'm assuming that they didn't actually mean *client* changes or updates.)
So, it seems that this was likely a one-off, especially as they didn't actually ask *me* for my legal name change documents. I do hope that they change their policy, though, because I suspect I'm far from the only person in this situation.
Thank you to everybody who spread the word about this, and thank you to Valve for a quick, helpful response! (Although I wish I hadn't needed to get it this way.)
I've received a response from Steam. It sounds like it's going to be positive. :)
I'll update you all when it's all resolved.
[edited 26th January 2011: Just woke up to see that some people think I believe this is discrimination against trans people. Let me make it clear that I do not agree with them, and please let anyone who is saying this on my behalf know this. Thank you.]
[edited 27th January 2011: I have received a response from Steam, and it looks like the outcome will be positive. I'll update you all once it's resolved.]
[edited 28th January 2011: All resolved! Please see my followup post, which also responds to some things people were saying about this.]
Alright, this is a post that I've been meaning to write for ages, and haven't. The reason I haven't so far is because I wanted to try to resolve this in another way, but I really haven't been able to get up the energy to work out how best to do it.
As I suspect many of the people reading this are, I'm a user of Steam, Valve's game distribution platform. Or rather, I was; I haven't logged on to it for a while now. The reason for this is simple; I cannot bear to do so, because I've had the Steam username for long enough that it uses my old name, and this causes me distress. Unfortunately, Steam's policy is that usernames cannot be changed.
Why can't I just create another account? Because I have a number of games that I bought using this account, and Steam's policy is that you can't transfer games between accounts. (I'd link to an official knowledge base page stating this, but I can't find one that deals with the issue.)
This, of course, creates big problems for me as a transgendered woman. (My old name is tied to my male identity and causes me grief.) Sure, Steam allows you to edit your account settings such that everybody else sees only the names you want to give out, and they offer the option to add people to their friends list by email address rather than username. However, this doesn't stop me from seeing the cursed name every time I use the service. :(
I've contacted Support about this three times now. I'll share the last of these exchanges with you. Be warned: It may cause rage
( Our last exchange. )
I'd like to be able to play the games which I paid for. Right now, I can't without being forced to use a name that does not belong to me any more, and which has a clear impact on my mental health. I should not have to do this; it should not be this hard to change it, given the circumstances.
I'm making this as a public post. Feel free to link this where you want - in fact, please do link this where you can. I'm not sure how much impact this will have, but hey.
I'm also planning to write an email to Gabe Newell, the managing director of Valve, but I don't really know how to write it. If anybody wants to help me write such an email, I'd love to hear from you.
Thanks for reading.