Really interesting piece about literature and the South. The Garth Greenwell novel, What Belongs to You, sounds good. I'm fascinated by the obliquitous but mostly invisible sphere of gay culture that sprang from homosexuality being illegal and dangerous for so long (and still in many places in the U.S.): cruising in parks, bathrooms, bus stations, etc.
I'm always drawn to subjects that people just do not want to talk about. If someone is ashamed to talk about something, you can bet it's good stuff.
I don't think there's necessarily anything "wrong" with the fact that we had to emphasize certain aspects of gay life (we fall in love and have lasting relationships) and deemphasize or even stigmatize other aspects (we cruise truck stops for anonymous sex) in order to gain rights. Sadly, privilege comes with fitting in. We got marriage rights by admitting, essentially, that we were awful and dirty and shameful but only because we were oppressed and really we just want to be like you if you'll let us.
Of course, there's no shortage of straight people having sex in public bathrooms. The difference is that they have always had more options. For gay men for a very long time, public bathrooms were an important site of their culture. I mean, seriously, where do you expect people to meet each other when their lives are literally illegal?
I know I'm conflating a lot of issues and speaking vaguely about different historical periods that had different laws, attitudes, pressures, etc.