The multi-talented poet, playwright and psychotherapist Dianna L. Grayer, MA, PhD, has always been a protector of the underdog — protector of those chosen last.

“I knew on the playground,” she says, “the critical need to encourage others to love themselves.”

In her therapy practice, Grayer works with individuals, couples and families who are dealing with issues around childhood maternal wounding, race, LGBTQI, foster care and adoption, parenting, relationship discord, depression, anxiety, self-esteem and grief. She also shares her gifts with the community in other ways. While earning her MA in Marriage and Family Counseling at Sonoma State, she started to write books, including “Journaling: A Workbook to Transform Your Self Esteem” and half-a-dozen books for children, such as “I Am Somebody,” “Lei Lei Conquers the Monsters” and “Wisdom From the Wild: What’s Really Behind the Growl.”

She offers classes on journaling and writing books for children, as well as her always popular “Stepping Into Fierceness” workshops. An adjunct professor at her alma mater, Meridian University, Grayer is an accomplished poet and playwright whose LGBTQI play “Private Lives, Private Lies” has been performed in Ukiah, Santa Rosa, Graton, and Marin, Napa and Lake Counties.

“But not in Petaluma,” Grayer exclaims. “We need to find a local venue for a powerful play featuring 17 people navigating relationship and family discord, addiction, discrimination, and choosing to live an authentic life by coming out in joy.”

Grayer does not hold back in her work, or her opinions.

“I want my voice to be strong like the waves,” Grayer writes, in one of her poems. That’s a philosophy she adopted at a young age. “When I was 16-and-a-half, my mom decided one morning to leave Louisiana behind and move west to California — so my life-changing journey began when we boarded a train in Baton Rouge. We settled in Marin City, and the term ‘culture shock’ doesn’t come close to describing the way I felt as an incoming senior at Tamalpais High School.”

Tall and athletic, Grayer was quickly recruited by the Tam High basketball coach.

“I was good enough to start, and with support from my teammates, I was pretty good,” she says. “We used to hang out weekends at the Sausalito flea market, where my eyes opened wide at a panoply of colors, shapes, sizes and sexualities I had never imagined.”

Grayer became a nursing major at San Francisco State, but soon realized medicine was not for her.

“That was my mother’s dream, not mine,” she says. “So I earned my BA in recreation, and started searching for a place to land.”

It was at SF State that Grayer met Sheridan Gold, her musician wife of 40-plus years. To date, the couple have parented thirty-three foster children ranging in age from 1 to 19 years of age, so when the couple moved to West Petaluma, they had some specific needs.

“I worked for a window installation company for a while, and do windows and doors, tiling, framing, and sheetrock — so a fixer-upper was fine, but we also needed room for the kids,” Grayer notes. “The first thing we did on the property was build a basketball court with an adjustable height hoop.”

(Contact Gil Mansergh at gilmansergh@comcast.net)