In 2016, after 43-year-old finance professional Jhonnatan Espinosa broke up with his partner of 10 years, he turned to music to cope with his pain.
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At the time, he was taking music lessons at the LGBTI Center in Bogota with a group of transgender men. They decided to organize a rock band unlike any other in Colombia, forming 250 Milligrams in September 2016.
“Music became our vehicle to show the world who we really are," Espinosa told NBC Out.
"We wanted to be more visible because we’re often marginalized by society. We didn’t want to hide away and suffer in silence. The public had to see a different side to us.”
According to the band members, 250 Milligrams is the first transgender male rock group in South America. With their music, the group hopes to empower the LGBTI community in Colombia.
“Every month, we have to take a 250-milligram dose of testosterone as part of our transition,” 21-year-old drummer Thomas Jimenez explained.
“We thought it was the perfect name — not immediately obvious with a bit of inside humor.”
The core members of the ensemble are Espinosa, Jiminez, Andres Castillo, Gustaff Garzon, Martin-Orozco, Ale Quiroga and Viviana Vega, the group’s only woman. With their music, the group is also “taking a stand” to defend their rights.
Jiminez, the youngest member of the ensemble, told NBC Out, “It’s rare to find a band like us. Colombia is still a deeply Catholic country with largely conservative views.”
Activists also see the emergence of 250 Milligrams on Colombia’s music scene as a victory for LGBTI rights in the country.
“One of our obligations is to educate the public about what it means to be trans,” Espinosa said.
“There’s still a lot of people in Colombia who don’t know that trans people even exist.”
According to the U.S. Agency for International Development, Colombia ranked fourth in the world in transgender killings between 2008 and 2013.
“Almost every day a member of the trans community is killed in Colombia because of hate crimes. Many people don’t respect being different. Transgender men and women are one of the most persecuted groups in Colombia,” Espinosa added.
With growing popularity, the band is moving beyond the local Bogota scene to the international arena. They were recently invited to perform at a festival in Mexico in 2018 and will be performing at several Pride events in July.