Gender Confusion On Government Forms

I went to my appointment to sign up for TSA Precheck yesterday. It’s not that I have tired of being groped, interrogated and cajoled by the goon squad when I “opt out” the few times I fly each year. It’s more that I enjoy paying $85 for a “service” which solves a problem that wouldn’t exist if the government wasn’t so intent on providing me with another “service”, first, TSA-controlled security.

To get approved for Precheck, you have to pass a background check. It seems like if the airlines were in control of their own security they’d already be doing this. I don’t know about you but if I ran an airline, for example, I wouldn’t want convicted felons or those who have spent time in a mental institutions (two questions on the self-administered portion of the process) being transported on my aircraft. That would seem to pose a safety hazard. But under the TSA and government security, they’re fair to fly, they just can’t speed through the security screening process at the airport. I guess they can’t hurt anyone without bringing guns, knives and bombs on board the planes?

Another field you have to fill out is, uh oh, “Gender”. I didn’t ask the clerk because I didn’t want to jeopardize my application processing by making light of a Really Serious Idea that’s currently popular, but I assume that the only options are “Male” and “Female.” The idea here is that whichever you choose should correspond to the background check records which will be referenced, which draw from government identity databases (Social Security/birth certificate, credit bureaus, etc.) Someone trying to steal someone’s identity would quickly be flagged if they put “Male” but were trying to get a Precheck number for someone registered as “Female.”

So what is a transgender person to do here? If they started out “Male” but at some point began to identify as “Female” and they insist this is their true identity, they’re going to fail their background check and not get issued a Precheck pass to avoid the TSA harassment procedure. Is that discrimination?

And if, to make sure things go smoothly, they admit they are still a “Male” despite identifying otherwise, is this oppression?

Thankfully, this isn’t a problem I had to deal with personally, but it did make me wonder! I wonder how long it’ll be before government forms reflect this “new reality”, and how much longer until the first terrorist takes advantage of this new loophole caused by gender confusion by assuming a fake identity in the ambiguity it creates?

The best US bank for travel in Asia? Citibank.

I opened a Citibank account when I moved to New York back in 2004. It seemed like a good option for ATM access in the city, but I came to regret my choice when I moved to Dallas and then back to California. Citi was not everywhere and was often difficult to come by– luckily I was never a big cash user, preferring to use my credit card for monthly cash management. Still, it was inconvenient and I often thought of switching to BofA or another major branch when I enviously spied these locations much closer to home and work whenever I went.

In fact, today I do most of my banking with Chase. Their bank branch expansion has been nothing short of explosive over the last few years and they’re now everywhere. In addition, they seem to have the most advanced ATMs which can read and deposit checks directly with OCR technology and an app that can also handle check deposits under $2000. I realize other banks (such as Capital One) offer similar technologies and I think maybe Citi and BofA have ATMs that are as capable now as well but my point is that Chase seems to offer the best overall package, domestically.

However, in the three Asian cities we’ve visited, Citibank has been hands down the best option.

Now, I keep a decent balance with Citi so I get their Citigold service. This means I am entitled to ATM fee reimbursement at non-Citi ATMs and I get their best forex exchange rate with no forex fees. When we traveled to South America three years ago, I pulled cash from local ATMs (I don’t remember spotting a Citi there, maybe in Santiago or BA but I don’t remember) and never had to go to a money exchange like Travelex. The rest of the time I just ran my debit card when it was an option and I got the same benefit– pay for the meal, ticket, whatever, at the best exchange rate with no fees.

In the three cities we’ve visited so far, Taipei, Hong Kong and Singapore, I’ve found a Citi ATM within two or three blocks of our AirBNB as well as around the city while walking. Even better, in Hong Kong and Singapore I found Citi ATMs in the baggage claim area of the terminals so I had cash for cabs, airport trams, etc. immediately upon arrival. I probably could’ve found one in Taipei as well but didn’t bother checking as we were being picked up by relatives and I planned to exchange money with them.

My Citi MasterCard debit card has been accepted anywhere the merchant offers credit card payment services, which has been just about everywhere but local food stands and some cabs.

I haven’t seen one other major US bank ATM or branch office here– no Chase, no BofA, no Wells Fargo. However, there are a TON of local/regional banks, it is actually amazing how unconsolidated the banks in Asia appear to be even with dominant local giants such as Standard Chartered and HSBC. This is something I read about in “[amazon text=Asian Godfathers&asin=0802143911]” by Joe Studwell. Asia in general is kind of overbanked because every crony capitalist wants his own bank to play financial games with his holding companies.

As I don’t have any substantial BitCoin holdings I didn’t explore how using BitCoin might work out here but my suspicion right now is that it doesn’t make it any easier or cheaper.

For a “globalized” world such as the one we live in, with so many people traveling for work and pleasure, isn’t it amazing we don’t have one, market derived currency of choice?