STAFF SPOTLIGHT: Tomas Aponte, Sr. Program Services Coordinator
Meet Tomas Aponte, Sr. Program Services Coordinator! Tomas tells us about the important work he does with our agency, his role as a leader on our SOGI (Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity) Committee as well as other committees, and about his personal experience coming out.
What does it mean to work for BBBS and what is your role within the agency?
Working for BBBS is like working for a lighthouse. I’ve always been fascinated with the vastness of the ocean and when I think about my experience with BBBS it brings me back to the significance of a lighthouse and endless opportunities that exist within this agency and our matches. Thinking back to when I was a child – my parents enrolled me in BBBS and I was matched with a Big Brother because I was a young Latino male struggling with my identity, sexual orientation, and was seeking my own personal lighthouse. Fortunately, I had dance and theater as an outlet, but there was still something missing. BBBS stepped in and filled the gap between what my parents could provide and what I was needing. Lighthouses symbolize the way forward and help in navigating our way through rough waters. As a former Little in the program, I am familiar with the mission and impact of BBBS and made the decision to work for the agency as an adult. As a Sr. Program Services Coordinator, I have the pleasure of interacting with our matches over the phone and hearing about the magic behind our program. Joining the Match Support Team, I quickly realized how important and critical the Match Support role is in ensuring that everyone feels supported and I love being able to provide our matches with ideas, suggestions, and coaching on topics that arise over the course of their match. My role within the agency also allows me the opportunity to serve on our Racial Equity Committee, Sexual Orientation & Gender Identity Committee, and Spanish Speaking Team. I LOVE being able to use my intersectionality and personal experiences to advance and support the work that we do at our agency!
You are one of the leaders on the agency’s SOGI Committee. Tell us about your experience working with the committee. What are the most rewarding and challenging aspects of the work?
When I heard about our SOGI Committee, I knew that this was something that I wanted to become a part of because it’s a huge part of my identity! When the opportunity came up to co-lead this committee, I wanted to step up and continue to advocate for the importance of this committee. Working with this committee has been extraordinary – I feel supported professionally and also personally by my peers and committee members. It’s heartwarming to be a part of a committee that is passionate, determined, and innovative. The most rewarding experience has been seeing the support that our agency and committee received at Boston Pride 2019. I look around and it’s inspiring and electrifying to see how many resources exist and how much support there is for the LGBTQ+ community that didn’t exist when I was a child. One of the most challenging aspects of the committee work is that everyone on the committee has a core role to do and we only meet two times a month as a committee – though we’ve made great strides and have accomplished a lot already – we still have so much more on our list that we would like to accomplish!
Today is National Coming Out Day. Can you share a little about your personal experience coming out?
As a member of the LGBTQ+ community – you’re coming out almost every day. The reason I say this is because even though I’ve been out since 2006, every-time I meet someone new or I am invited into a new network of people – I come out to them whenever the conversation arises. I am fortunate to have had a loving and supportive group of people around me back in 2006 when I first came out. I attended a performing arts middle and high school and a lot of my friends were dancers/ artists/ musicians. I knew that coming out to them would be difficult but that there would be a solid group of supportive friends amongst them. Coming out at as freshman in high school, had its challenges but I am thankful that I developed the voice and confidence to be my true self at that age. I had mentors and role models who equipped me with the confidence and self-advocacy that I needed to embrace this new found part of my identity. I told myself that perhaps there were even other friends who were struggling with the same thing but weren’t ready to do so. It was a little more difficult of a conversation with my parents and immediate family members, but they were still very supportive and accepting of me. Although my parents initially thought that it was a phase I was going through, they eventually realized that this was an important part of my identity and something that I began to explore more throughout high school. Some people vocalized that they felt like that was a young age to come out. However, it’s important to remember that we all share a unique and individual experience and for some that experience and journey begins sooner than others. Through time, they became a lot more comfortable with it and made a conscious effort to educate themselves on LGBTQ+ topics and vocabulary to make sure they were being inclusive and accepting. Coming from a Puerto Rican household, this was very new to them but we shared a mutual respect for each other in terms of processing and revisiting the conversation when we were ready to talk about it again. Now 13 years later, my parents continue to support me and have become allies for the LGBTQ+ community and have been welcoming, embracing, and loving to me and my LGBTQ+ friends and partner.
Why is your work with SOGI so important to both you and the agency?
This work is important to me because I acknowledge that everyone has their own story and journey. Though I wish everyone’s coming out story was positive – I also know that’s not the circumstance for many. I want to continue using my voice to advocate for those within the LGBTQ+ community and continue to raise awareness towards equality, acceptance, and love. I strongly believe that we’re living in a time where silence is complicity and I have never known myself to be someone who is complicit. On a personal level, I want people to celebrate who they are – whenever that self is discovered. I want people to know that they are loved and supported and that there will always be someone on their team cheering for them. I believe that the work SOGI is doing is important for the agency because we want our agency to be reflective of our staff, volunteers, and our families. If we truly want to continue serving the community in Eastern Massachusetts, we have to make sure our agency supports, advocates, and celebrates everything that makes us who we are as people.
If you want to learn more about the important work our SOGI Committee is doing, visit HERE.