Synovial sarcoma (SS) is defined by a recurrent t(x;18) chromosomal translocation, which produces the hallmark SS18-SSX oncogenic fusion. Incorporation of SS18-SSX into BAF complexes renders BAF complexes aberrant in two distinct manners: the addition of 78aa of SSX onto SS18, and concomitant loss of BAF47 assembly. However, the importance and functional contributions of each of these perturbations on BAF complex targeting and gene expression regulation remain unclear. Here we use an integrative set of genomic approaches in human cancer cell lines and primary tumor samples to define the mechanistic consequences of the SS18-SSX fusion oncoprotein. We find that SS18-SSX hijacks BAF complexes to broad polycomb domains to activate bivalent genes, driving a unique gene expression program distinct from other loss-of-function BAF complex malignancies. Importantly, restoration of BAF47 rescues enhancer activation but is dispensable for proliferative arrest in cell lines. These results demonstrate that gain-of-function SS18-SSX-mediated BAF complex targeting and gene activation is the driving event in SS, and present a mechanism by which distinct functions of BAF complexes can be co-opted to drive oncogenesis.