Moe aikāne relationships were sexual relationships in pre-colonial Hawai'i between aliʻi nui and the male and female kaukaualiʻi performing a hana lawelawe or expected service with no stigma attached. While the cultural tradition is one of the best examples of a nominally heterosexual community also accepting homosexual and bisexual relationships, author Kanalu G. Terry Young states in his book Rethinking the Native Hawaiian Past that these relationships were not bisexual in a social sense. These were relationships from the ʻōiwi wale times that held no stigmatism to the persons ʻano (one's nature or character). To call it a bisexual relationship is like saying the children of multiple husbands from one Hawaiian mother were out of wedlock. For the time, the comparison is impossible. These relationships are accepted as part of the history of ancient Hawaiian culture.
Among men, the sexual relationships usually begin when the partners are teens and continue throughout their lives, even though they also maintain heterosexual partners. The Hawaiian aikane relationship is well known to have been a part of life for Hawaiian nobility, including Kamehameha. While more examples of male relationships exist, some stories refer to women's desires, supporting the theory that some women may have been involved in aikāne relationships as well.
In regard to the aikāne relationship, Lieutenant James King stated that "all the chiefs had them". He recounts a tale that Captain Cook was actually asked by one chief to leave King behind, considering such an offer a great honor. A number of Cook's crew related tales of the tradition with great disdain. American adventurer and sailor John Ledyard commented in detail about the tradition as he perceived it. The relationships were official and in no way hidden. The sexual relationship was considered natural by the Hawaiians of that time.
The word and social category of aikāne refers to: ai or intimate sexual relationship; and kāne or male/husband. In traditional mo'olelo or chants, women and goddesses (as well as ali'i chiefs) referred to their female lovers as aikāne, as when the goddess Hi'iaka refers to her female lover Hopoe as her aikāne. During the late 19th and early 20th century, the word aikāne was "purified" of its sexual meaning by colonialism, and in print meant simply "friend", although in Hawaiian language publications its metaphorical meaning could mean either "friend" or "lover" without stigmatization.
Although their roles are often conflated with aikāne in contemporary LGBT culture, the Māhū are in a social category of liminal gender. Māhū (in the middle) live in a space between the genders, and many live in the opposite gender to their birth.
- Kanalu G. Terry Young (25 February 2014). Rethinking the Native Hawaiian Past. Taylor & Francis. pp. 51–52. ISBN 978-1-317-77668-0.
- William Kornblum (31 January 2011). Sociology in a Changing World. Cengage Learning. p. 165. ISBN 978-1-111-30157-6.
- Michael Klarman (18 October 2012). From the Closet to the Altar: Courts, Backlash, and the Struggle for Same-Sex Marriage. Oxford University Press. pp. 56–. ISBN 978-0-19-992210-9.
- Carol R. Ember; Melvin Ember (31 December 2003). Encyclopedia of Sex and Gender: Men and Women in the World's Cultures Topics and Cultures A-K - Volume 1; Cultures L-Z -. Springer. pp. 207–. ISBN 978-0-306-47770-6.
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- Stephen O. Murray (1 June 2002). Homosexualities. University of Chicago Press. pp. 99–. ISBN 978-0-226-55195-1.
- Noenoe K. Silva (2004). Aloha Betrayed: Native Hawaiian Resistance to American Colonialism. Duke University Press Durham & London. pp. 66, 77. ISBN 0822386224.